PERSPECTIVE ON A GARDEN DISASTER

I don’t know about you, but I always feel that my garden isn’t quite ready to be seen.  I see all the things that need to be done instead of being able to appreciate how far we have come.

This 'river' is 7' deep, varies between 5'-10' wide and was almost 140' long.
This ‘river’ is 7′ deep, varies between 5′-10′ wide and was almost 140′ long.

We were pretty happy with our 10 years of landscaping. January of 2009, Mother Nature called for a do over in the form of a flood and landslide coming off the mountain across the street.  Many areas of our landscape are still suffering.   In one section that we haven’t rehabbed yet, the weeds, mostly alder trees are taller than I am.  That’s pretty overwhelming.   Every once in a while I venture into that area to rescue some botanical treasure that has been buried by the weeds.  I don’t know if we will get to that area, this year or next.

landslide compilation1sm
A few front yard photos.

All these rocks…. where do you even start?

We’ve all heard it… when mother nature gives you lemons, make lemonade.  Well, we have been, but it’s a lot of hard work.

We started by trying to rescue the lawn.

Re-landscaping…   As difficult as all the rebuilding has been, it is better than it was before.   OMG -We used to buy landscape rock, but Mother Nature delivered all sort of wonderful rocks.  Sizes varied from small boulders to sand.   We were able to fill the huge whole in the driveway without bringing in rock.  We ‘shop’ around the property for rocks to define pathways.  So many plants washed away or died over the next year from the trauma, since we weren’t able to un-earth every plant right away.  The flooding also had some interesting side effects.  We keep finding special plants in places that we didn’t put them.  Flood waters distributed things in interesting places.  There is also a new distribution of weeds.  We never had stinging nettles on our property before, but they are here now.  I want to learn to cook with them, but they scare me.  I still remember exactly how much the stinging hurt from my childhood misadventures running into stinging nettles in the woods.

landslide compilation2sm
entry area garden, after the flood and now

Since so much soil washed away, while we had the track hoe here, we had him dig a large hole that will become a pond.  We used the soil to build new gardens and hopefully will build the pond in the next few years.   It will be our biggest most challenging landscape project.

My takeaway from all this has been…

  • be grateful for what you have, things can always be worse.
  • enjoy the planning and process, not just the end result.
  • work together
  • keep shopping for plants 😉  there is always room for another
  • a glass of Bailey’s Irish Cream and a long soak in a Jacuzzi tub is a great way to recover from a hard days work in the garden. ( My husband would prefer a cold beer.)

It’s going to be hot today, so I’m going to go out and work in the garden before  the sun comes over the mountain.  I’m planning to work hard and I’m already looking forward to the Bailey’s and a bath.

Have a great day, appreciate what you have!

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Be smart – STAY IN THE ZONE – the USDA plant hardiness zone!

$  Be Smart – STAY IN THE ZONE – the USDA zone!  $

the plant zonesmall

A cautionary tale… I’m a plant collector.  There…  I said it.    My criteria is simple… if I don’t already have it, I probably want it, if I do already have it, I may need another for another place.  We collectors all seem to find things that we ‘need’ in our gardens, even if they push the limits of our ‘zone’.

Last summer we bought several expensive zone 7 perennials.  We live in zone 6.  Unfortunately,  no amount of wishing, hoping, dreaming, or even mulching can coax that zone 7  plant through the sustained 8 degrees f during a winter cold snap.

It  just makes good sense to buy what will thrive in your area.   Save yourself the worry and aggravation as well as the cash.  Learn from our mistakes.  Be realistic when selecting treasures for your botanical collection.

Buy what will grow and thrive where you live.

In the mean time, we will continue looking  for any signs of life, a little sprout, just a small crack in the earth, anything to give us hope of returning zone 7 botanical treasures.  So far there has just been the disappointment of the empty spaces where we might as well have just planted cash,  since it doesnt grow either.

…..Of
course,   If they don’t come back, I guess we will just have to go shopping for more plants to fill those spaces.  This time I’ll take my own advise and stay within my ‘zonal limits’.

Wonder what your ‘safety’ USDA zone is?

here’s a link to the site: http://planthardiness.ars.usda.gov/PHZMWeb/

WHAT TO EAT…..

Honeycrisp Apple

Today, I have been home sick.  Lots of sleeping, and watching several documentaries about food on Netflix.  There are so many and they range from disheartening to terrifying.

About a year ago I significantly reduced the amount of wheat I eat and added a lot more rice, mostly organic.  Now, there is a report about arsenic in rice,  even organic rice.  What next?  What food can you trust anymore?

We’ll work harder at growing more of our own.  We just planted our fall-winter crops and put cold frames over some of the squash in hopes of bringing a few to edible size.   If you have a Vitamix, you can take almost any greens from the garden, add a few things and make a soup.  I’ve been doing that a lot lately.

The fruit triumph:  This photo represents the complete harvest from the Honeycrisp apple tree this year.  One apple but it’s perfect!

I can’t really save money on couponing because so many of the coupons are for proccessed foods, the kind of foods we are trying to reduce our consumption of.   I do trust the Bob’s Red Mill company and buy a fair amount of their products.  I came upon a great deal through Vitacost.  I had never heard of  Vitacost before but the offer of $10.00 off on my first order got my attention.   They carry a lot of brands, foods and supplements.  Bob’s was the only brand I ordered this time.    Their prices are already discounted significantly from the grocery stores and the $10.00 off just sweetened the deal, so I ordered.  In less than a week, the pantry was refilled with rice flour, gluten-free pancake mix and more.

I’m sharing that link here.   If you do order, I would really appreciate it if you go thru this link.  (They throw a little my way for the referral.)    It’s really a great deal!  I will certainly order from them again, probably quite regularly.

http://www.vitacost.com/Referee?wlsrc=rsReferral&ReferralCode=90488990

Give it a try!

CHEESE MAKING – Inspired by a wonderful GARDENING & COOKING blog

A Favorite blog of mine originates in the same general area where I live, the Pacific Northwest part the of the evergreen state, Washington.

Check out NWEdible life http://www.nwedible.com/  Blogger Erica is a chef, homemaker, gardener and extremely entertaining writer.  She has inspired my gardening and cooking.  She gives advise on growing your own food and how to cook it in ways that are creative and delicious.  I starting to follow her blog when I realized that OMG… I’m growing food that I’ve never enjoyed eating and cooking before, like kale and brussel sprouts, but I can’t let this bounty go to waste so I started looking for recipe inspiration…. what I found this time wasn’t what I was looking for but WOW is it wonderful.  There will be time for brussel sprout recipes later……  hmmmm…. I wonder how Lemon Ricotta and mint would taste on brussel sprouts???

This photo and the link is from her blog, check it out.  It’s great.

This is the photo that drew me in.

http://www.nwedible.com/2012/08/figs-lemon-ricotta-mint.html

I tried the cheese making part of this recipe.  It required patience but turned out great!     I put it on crackers and topped it with raspberries that I had picked and frozen this summer.  YUM!

Thanks Erica,  for a great recipe, a way to use a few sprigs of the mint that grows so well in the herb garden and for a reason to learn something new.  Cheesemaking, another skill in the journey toward increased self-reliance.  The photo is so appetizing, more like art than food!  I will make this cheese again and serve it with the figs.   I will make it for guests, I will take it to parties.   We will enjoy it at home ‘just because’.

Where Erica gardens is a zone warmer and several weeks ahead of where we are.  I’m incredibly jealous of the figs she can grow.  We tried a fig tree but our single digit temperatures in the winter caused the tree to die back more than was reasonable.  It’s gone now and in its place is the columnar apple.   The apple is doing great and doesn’t mind the cold winters.

PS:  check out Erica’s jam and jelly recipes.  There are some really amazing combinations.  Far from the ordinary!  http://www.nwedible.com/2012/08/create-your-own-signature-jam-by-mixing-and-matching-flavors.html

 

the Journey Toward Increased Self Sufficiency

I’m a very enthusiastic amateur gardener, plant collector, chicken farmer and avid Do It Yourselfer. I am on a journey toward increased self-sufficiency by focusing on growing and preserving more of our own food.

After some recent health concerns, I have been learning more about our food supply and what passes as ‘food’ in this country. The more I learn, the more worried I get. Huge corporations control big agriculture and promote the use of GMOs. The government that should be protecting citizens from harm turn a blind eye to the dangers. We have to look out for ourselves and many of us have not been paying attention. I’m trying not to over react, but the more I find out about our food supply the more un-settling it is.

My answer: to continue to educate myself and starting to take more control of our food, by growing and preserving more, and having a better understanding of where our food comes from and making better choices. For the time being, we will grow some fruits, vegetables and herbs. We also have 6 laying hens that lay a beautiful organic assortment of colored eggs.

My husband doesn’t have strong feelings about any of this but is completely supportive of growing more of our own food. He has built us a wonderful concrete raised bed kitchen garden, complete with 7 fruit trees, 20 blueberries, 4 blackberries, 12 raspberries, 150 strawberries, lots of herbs, a table grape and enough space to grow a fair number of vegetables in a way that is fully fenced and attractive. We balance each other well. I would try to grow everything, while he makes me prioritize what I really want and more importantly, what we can reasonably manage. I’m very lucky!

Below are links to my articles that chronicle the considerations, design, and implementation of a very well planned, reasonable sized , flexible, very low maintenance, kitchen garden.

The ideas used to plan this garden would apply to any kitchen garden, from one small bed to something much larger than we are willing to take on. I’m sure we will learn a lot this season. I hope we can learn from and inspire others to grow more of their own food.

Leola