Tag Archives: gardening

Planting Ramps in My Forest Garden


Spring is edging to life in Central Alabama. The Ramps I planted last week are coming up! Ramps are not that thing you drive your wheelchair up, but instead a shade-loving edible plants with a taste like onions. I ordered 10 ramps from Pine Tree Gardens http://www.superseeds.com/ and they arrived in the mail in a padded envelope, ready to be planted.


After researching them carefully in my literature which included Vegetable Literacy by Deborah Madison which included several delicious sounding recipes and a beautiful photograph. Then I looked in Edible Forest Gardens by Dave Jacke and Eric Toensmeier http://www.edibleforestgardens.com who wax ecstatic over ramps in multiple places in their 2 volumes, so I looked up all the references and studied the best way to plant my ramps. They like moist woodland soil, which we have plenty of, so I selected 2 spots near our house, one in the front circle, and a spot beyond the deck in the back yard. You can eat both leaves and roots, but until your patch is well established, you will probably only want to taste the leaves, as you want them to spread.IMG_2811

I planted them in the moist soil with a bit of my special composted horse manure that my friend Beth kindly allowed me to haul away. In the hole I added a half teaspoonful of mycorrhizal inncoulant which is a fungus that stimulates plant roots to grow. You can buy it from Amazon look up Xtreme Gardening Mykos. At my Spiral Ridge PDC http://www.spiralridgepermaculture.com/ we called it Magic Sprinkle Powder and we put it on the roots of all the things we planted.

What have you planted in your Garden this year? Or maybe it is still too soon…what will you plant?


Leaving Work… Retiring or Maybe Changing Direction


The Swing Awaits… we have received the news we could potentially “retire”… Although retirement is not really my style… When I was unemployed last year I found tons of interesting things to do…permaculture, volunteering, knitting, exploring cooking and food, deeper spiritual experiences, more environmental work, travel and so on. Going back to work 1/2 time… 40 hours every other week is okay, but the distance to the job is a problem.

So the essential question we’ve been wrestling with these past several weeks is the elusive question of how much money do you need… I want to talk about this without getting specific. Our financial adviser had a number which we thought was pretty high… but then you contemplate catastrophic events and then you think OH NO! WORK LONGER. We don’t have long term care insurance… should we buy it? Can we afford it?

My grandparents did not have it, and my grandmother did live in a Long Term Care facility for several years and died before her money ran out. She was not happy about outliving her spouse by 12 or 13 years, but she was not unhappy those last few years. She died before she turned 100 by about 6 months.

My father is fragile and may go at any time, but I suspect Long Term Care will not be part of his future, thankfully. My mother may last a long time yet, but she plans to pay for her own Long Term Care if needed.

My Father-in-Law lived with a son and his girlfriend, they took good care of him in his own home, where he died. He had a modest estate that was shared by his many children.

But we are young at 57 and 58… so when we contemplate not going to work every day it is scary. Will we get on each others nerves? Will we get bored staring at each other across the table? Will we have enough money to do what we want to do, make repairs, replace broken things, travel?

I have a good friend who did it. She and her husband retired when he turned 58. They have not looked back. They wrestle with health issues occasionally, cared for her daughters family for a year, then her mother for another year, but have traveled all over the United States, Canada and some to Europe. They are happy they did it. She says I talked her into it, I had read a book called Your Money or Your Life by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin, and she read it too, and did what the book suggested.

We are not so different from them… we like each other, we like to travel, we like to garden and have infinite volunteer opportunities, so I suspect we will do just fine. We have been doing many of the things in Your Money or Your Life and we are almost there. I still don’t know what to do about Long Term Care Insurance.

What is a permaculture solution to Long Term Care?

Spiral Ridge PDC day 2 Oct 1,2013

This is the account of my adventure at the Permaculture Design Course at Spiral Ridge in October of 2013 http://www.spiralridgepermaculture.com

Day 2 started with hearty breakfast…scrambled eggs, oatmeal, yogurt and assorted nice things to add to that like nuts, raisins, honey, jam etc. We also had coffee around the campfire every morning.

They assigned chores- animal care, working in the green house, and more boring stuff like dish washing and wood chopping. Some of our crew cheerfully volunteered for stuff like dish washing and wood chopping. Some of our crew cheerfully volunteered for humanure duty- which meant emptying the bucket into the humanure pile, which must cook for a year before it can go out as fertilizer. They don’t put it on vegetables. They cover each poop with cedar chips from an Amish saw mill. This was not a required duty.

Site Tour- we walked the upper part of the Farm…it was so interesting that we only got around to the top half. Some highlights…Water cistern attached to the Well- covered in insulation. and attached to a solar panel. Whenever the sun shines, water pumps into the cistern (5000 gal) which is used for clean drinking water and other uses. They also collect rain water from roofs, and grey water from washing and showers which is funneled into tanks and a pond.

We saw the herb garden next to the Cabin which contained some herbs I knew, and a lot I did not know, There was lots of blooming stuff including milk weed, so all week the Monarch butterflies stopped by for a snack on their way south for the winter. There were stinging nettles which are edible, but also have medicinal uses, Comfrey planted for it’s deep root that brings up nutrients, the leaves can be used as mulch. Yarrow and plantain are nutrient accumulators, There was a small Curly Willow next to the pond which can be cut down and will grow back from the roots (coppiced) There was a water plant in the pond… The herb garden area was a meandering Keyhole garden to improve edges and supply many different plants- there were about 100 different plants in about 100 sq feet- and room for more. The Cabin had 2 vines…a kiwi on one side… that was loaded with kiwis, and a hops plant on the other. There was also a fig tree that had ripe fruit on it.

There is a 50 foot green house that has baby trees waiting to be planted, a large overgrown basil (maybe left over from the winter- I saw it outside as well, A barrel full of duckweed to restock the pond in the spring, a greenhouse inside that was insulated for warmer space- it was currently empty. There was a large metal tub which they us to mix up planting medium, which they make themselves from 3 or 4 ingredients.

We saw the rabbit hutch which fertilizes the worm composting operation, where they add coffee grounds and egg shells. They have 1 buck and 2 does, which can supply you with a rabbit every week if all goes well and you don’t name them. We fed the rabbits greens from the garden and rabbit kibble.

Next to the rabbits was the gate to the chicken house where they had 17 chickens one of which was a rooster. There was netting over the chicken house, probably to discourage hawks. The chicken house had 3 nesting boxes, which were accessible from outside, so you could open it to collect eggs. Ducks from the duck pond can come into that area, as well as the chickens can out into the duck area. Cliff doesn’t like the chickens too much, he thinks they scratch too much, he is planning to phase them out in favor of the ducks…but then they will have to hunt for eggs.

The Vegetable garden was below the greenhouse and was mostly finished with the summer vegetables, There were still lots of tomatoes, and comfrey was planted there as well as huge marigold plants. The water from the upper herb garden drained into the vegetable as well as some irrigating with a hose…which they also use to water the animals.

Lunches were generally soup and salad- They came up with amazing soups, and I loved all the salads. Jen made several different fermented sauerkrauts, but sometimes green salads and coleslaw, and always interesting dressing and condiments.

Wild design- only noted 2 things in my notes- but both are interesting. “Nothing in Nature is random- all is in patterns- based on energy flows” “By recognizing patterns we can manipulate and enhance energy flows. And one that is not in my notes. The answer to very many permaculture questions…”It depends…”

Patterns in Nature- One of my favorite classes. Dendritic patterns of trees both in the branches and roots…It reminded me of Antoni Gaudi and his amazing cathedral in Barcelona, Spain. Hexagon as in honey bees. Nesting patterns of tree rings and rainbows, Lobing as in flower petals and pine cones. Spirals…ahh the amazing spiral. Start with hair swirls and finger prints then move to zinnias and hurricanes. Then consider the Fibonacci sequence which is found all over in nature…it can be a whole blog in itself. Stars for explosions and dandelions, Snowflakes. And finally Overbeck Jet which is like breaking waves, and mushrooms and atomic bombs and bones connected, and musical frequencies. Imposing squares and rectangles on natural patterns creates problems- poor wind and water flow and less edge effect. Natural patterns are more harmonic.

After a delicious dinner, they set up the computer and we watched case studies on u-tube…Sepp Holtzer- the wild permaculturist in Austria, An edibile food forest in a Davis, California subdivision, Geoff Lawson an Australian permaculture guru talking about urban permaculture and several more. Totally exhausted, Miriam and I were both staying at the Farm, carpooled back.

Planning for spring


Early morning in Prattville, Alabama Jan 22; 25 degrees, Jan 23; 28 degrees Jan 24; 19 degrees and Jan 25; 25 degrees
I desire to stay in bed and pull the covers up to stay warm… this is the coldest winter I remember since I left Los Alamos in 1975.

The blogging assignment for Zero to Hero is to do a “Round-up”… I studied the examples and decided on a review of seed catalogues… So here is a Permaculture Roundup…

1. The Library sent a email saying that I could check out a copy of the 25th anniversary edition of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig,Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance which I remember fondly from 25 years ago. He writes about people in the countryside…”They are not going anywhere. They’re not too busy to be courteous. The hereness and nowness of things is something they know all about.”
May we all try to live in the here and now.

2. Seed catalogs are awesome. My favorite to date is Wildseed Farms http://www.wildseedfarms.com. They have many of the flower seeds I need to help build diversity in my yard for improved insect action. I want to encourage beneficial insects and discourage others. They have good regional wildflower mixes, and packets of individual flowers about $1.25 per packet and shipping is very reasonable.

3. If you prefer plants to seeds, I bought plants from the Growers exchange- http://www.growersexchange.com individual plants at $5.95 each- They came nicely boxed up and with instructions on how to plant.

4. and I love Mountain Rose Herbs…wwwmountainroseherbs.com. I have ordered herbal Tea and seeds from them, they sent my items promptly. They have a good selection of hard to find herb seeds. They also give discounts to people taking Herbal classes.

5. An awesome blog is Chriscondello A plant a day till Spring http://chriscondello.wordpress.com/2014/01/20/a-plant-a-day-till-spring-day-31-passionflower/ His pictures are inspiring me to try some of his plants in my garden this year.

Before Permaculture

I got my first permaculture design project, unpaid of course


This site is a long 8 acre lot with a small 1960’s ? ranch style house. Most of the lot is forest. When the previous owner died, the property was given to a nearby church. The church decided to give the lot to their Boy Scout Troop on a temporary basis, and if they are good stewards, they will get it permanently. So my brother is the current Scout Master, and my Sister in Law asked me if I would like to design a garden for the property. So I went to Florida last week, and looked over the land, made plans for a garden and a supply list to get them going. I think the front 1/2 acre would be ideal for a annual garden and a bunch of fruit trees. So far it has been fun to get to design a real site.

The Front lawn is large, with good sun, so we agreed that a vegetable garden would work out well there. After looking at the soil, I observed that it is very sandy, so to conserve water, I think the best way to proceed would be to dig out about 8 inches of the soil and fill the space with rotting logs from the back of the property. This would serve as a sponge to hold water. Then put a soil mulch mixture on top- as deep as possible- 12 inches would be great, then mulch on top of that. Plant the seeds in the soil/Mulch mix. My SIL got a grant from Seed Savers and received a nice package of vegetable seeds, which should be enough seeds for the entire troop to grow vegetables. They also have a Scout father who is a plumber, so I suggested they install a sprinkler system to water when they are not there. There is already a spigot at the garden, and the Church will pay the water bill.

There is also a Bee keeper in Pensacola who will give you a bee hive… and maintain it for you…so I said go for it.

There is bamboo on site, so I think trellis’s made of bamboo and lashed on the front of the sad little brick house would do wonders to hide the look. Then plant Kiwi and in a year or so, they would have a wild jungle look that is more in keeping with the Boy Scout mystique than red brick.

My nephew known as the “Yellow headed Kid” and I did the “Jar Test”… you collect some soil from your site, and put it in a straight-sided jar, fill it with water, shake it up to mix, then let it settle for a week and observe the layers of sand, silt and clay. The preliminary results are mostly sand. The Jar Test came from Dave Jacke and Eric Toensmeier’s 2 volume book Edible Forest Gardensedible Forest Gardenshttp://www.edibleforestgardens.com/files/image_bookset.gif

I am working on a drawn design, I will post that when it is complete.


Fruit Tree Guilds


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Global Warming; Fact or Fiction

January 6th 2014 28 degrees at 0530, 27 degrees at 0830, back to 28 degrees at 1100, 23 degrees at 8pm

January 7th, 2014, the coldest day, I drove to Oxford, Alabama, it was 13.1 degrees at 0530 and was 18 degrees when I arrived in Oxford, with a low outside Birmingham of 10 degrees

January 8th, 2014 A bit warmer, started at about 18 degrees in Oxford and got to about 30 degrees back in Prattville

January 9th, 2014 28 degrees at 0530, up to 37 degrees by the time I walked around the block.

On the NBC nightly news last night (January 8th) was a piece about Global Warming in the face of the Polar Vortex that has been keeping most of the US in the grip of cold. It talked about the fact that many parts of our planet are experiencing record high temps while we are in the grip of winter. California is experiencing a severe drought, with little snow to keep the rivers flowing.
It also pointed out that the long-term is climate not the short term…so we need to look over 30 years. Over the past 30 years, the temperature has been increasing. That is a fact. The projected increase over the next 100 years in 3 degrees, it doesn’t sound like much, but it has a powerful impact on the planet. We need to be thinking about ways to be flexible with change with the increasing temperature. One thing I did was to attend a Permaculture Design Course…I went to Spiral Ridge in Southern Tennessee, and IT was AWESOME… I learned a lot and come home with a ton of amazing ideas. If you are reading this blog because of your interest in permaculture, find the money and go take a PDC- Spiral Ridge is a 5 star class.

We have gotten so politicized about the whole issue of Global Warming that we are turning away from the fact that it is happening. What we need to be doing is planning for the future. I found a good Ted Talk on the topic.


The Permaculure Prime Directive

January 4, 2014  27 degrees at 0730

“The only ethical decision is to take responsibility for our own existence and that of our children. Make it Now.”  Bill Mollison in Permaculture a Designer’s Manuel. 1988

  This weighty tome 576 pages is the recommended text for Permaculture. I asked for a copy for Christmas and received 2, thank you both. I cracked it open this morning as the next step in my journey to  learn more about this topic and share with you.

The part about this Prime Directive that I was struck by was the Bold statement “Make it Now.”   How can I take responsibility for my own existence ant that of my children?  Is it even in my control? But I can live Now… in this Moment, pondering the next right step and no longer bury my head in the sand ignoring the problems of the earth and our seemingly ignorant use of it’s resources.

Today I will Make it Now.


Gardening without Work

January 2nd, 2014

Prattville, AL 46 degrees and raining. The rain gauge had 3 inches in it, don’t know from when… The Montgomery Advertiser said we had 56.22 inches last year, 3 inches above average

I read Gardening without Work, by Ruth Stout, first published in 1961– a few years before Permaculture but still appropriate. The book was a Christmas present from Anais, very funny and the major point was Mulch, Mulch and mulch some more.