"The tragic reality is that very few sustainable systems are designed or applied by those who hold power, and the reason for this is obvious and simple: to let people arrange their own food, energy and shelter is to lose economic and political control over them. We should cease to look to power structures, hierarchical systems, or governments to help us, and devise ways to help ourselves." - Bill Mollison

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Haughty Asparagus

Looking down on their new relations the snobbish green asparagus was not at all pleased to be sharing its bed with a foreign visitor. "Who are these purple aberrations that have managed the winter and are now attempting to become permanent squatters, disrupting our all green society?" they demanded.

Looking up at their much larger rivals the peculiar purple asparagus respond "We are much sweeter and more tender then you, green asparagus. The farmer says we may stay as long as our performance holds up."

The green ones scowl and make preparation for a most bountiful harvest, "We will show the farmer who is best, we may not be as tasty but are far more productive" they tell each other.

The purple asparagus responds in kind, focusing it's energy on delicate flavor rather than quantity.

The farmer smiles, having overheard the argument, and thinks to himself "Just wait until I introduce the spargel" (white asparagus).

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Eternal Kale, Collards, and Chicory

In a previous post, Our Boreal Garden, I mentioned the transplanting of kale rootstock. Kale and collard greens that have been overwintered either in our garden or replanted from the root cellar can be expected to bring forth new growth in the very early spring. One of the advantages of this compared to direct seeding is that one should be able to achieve much larger leaf growth early on as the roots have already been developed and most of the plants energy is directed towards leafing out and going to seed. We usually have a good one or two months in which we are able to harvest the leaves before warm temperatures cause the plants to bolt.

For us, this procedure works one of two ways. In the spring we can plant kale and collards for large winter greens and the plants are normally harvested all the way into January at which time the cold (in our area) often forces the plant into a period of dormancy. We also plant these same greens in the early fall and are usually able harvest the much smaller, less mature plants throughout the winter months as they often retain thier leaves. The smaller kale tend to bolt much more quickly in the spring. Either way they both provide for us much sooner then any plants that have been directly seeded into the cold spring garden.

The above also applies to the various forms of chicory we grow in our gardens.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Volunteers are Starting to Arrive

Many plants return unbidden to our food gardens each spring, we call them permaculture plants. Perhaps a slight misuse of the term permaculture but that is how we refer to the many volunteers that grace our gardens if left to their own devices and allowed to reestablish themselves from the prior year. Numerous different plants have returned this spring and I am sure many more will make an appearance as the season ensues.

Hardy green and red lettuce, whose names have been long forgotten, appear each year where their seed stock has fallen.

The same happened with some of last years forgotten spinach

and chervil.

Numerous volunteer tomatoes can pretty much be counted on.

Sometimes I think all we need to do it make a few flats of garden dirt and wait to see how many tomatoes appear, like this nice one in amongst the eggplants.

I think this is my own special brand of Russian kale in our mulch pile.

Dill, or perhaps fennel?

Friday, April 24, 2009

A Dimes Worth of Salad Burnet

Last spring we picked up a couple outdated seed packets stashed in a local grocers bargain bin for 10 cents a piece. One of those seed packets was salad burnet. Having never even heard of this herb before I decided to give it a try and promptly planted the seed. All the seeds were still viable and the plant quickly sprang to life. We found the distinct pungent flavor a most appealing addition to our summer salads.

Salad burnet is a perennial plant, member of the Rosaceae family and relative of the rose. The younger leaves have a light nutty cucumber like flavor and become somewhat bitter as they age, but we find them both to be palatable...especially in a salad. The herb will supposedly self-sow in the garden if left to its own devices, and I am looking forward to seeing how well it performs on that front. Grown for animal fodder in the past, it was most well known for the numerous medicinal properties it is said to possess and was often used as an astringent and diuretic. It is also supposed to be a good source of vitamin C.

For only 10 pennies I have a most impressive plant that has been beaten into the earth by hail last July, left uncovered and neglected in the frozen soil all winter, and was one of the first plants to come alive this spring. What more could I possibly ask for in a plant so obviously well suited for our small Northern garden.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Nature's Fertilizer

I woke to the most ominous clouds this morning. Nature had decided to fix our gardens with an abundance of atmospheric nitrogen fertilizer today in the form of light hail and quite a bit of snow. This is very good for the lovage as well as all the other plants in the food garden as long as Mother Nature gets the application right, sometimes she goes a bit over board...especially with the hail.

The air is very high in nitrogen and plants need this to assist with photosynthesis. Lightning converts some of this nitrogen into a form that plants can use, this is called "fixed" nitrogen. Certain plants such as legumes and clover have bacteria in their roots and can fix their own nitrogen. Many plants need a little help with this and rain and hail brought on by sever weather can be a great source for them. Have you ever noticed how fast everything, especially nitrogen loving plants like corn, grow after a thunderstorm...nature takes care of it's own. If we let it.

Neither rain, nor hail or even snow will hinder these plants...this garden must grow.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

A Days Worth of Pictures

There may not be enough time to write, but certainly there is always time for a few pictures. Especially when one has had such good help in the food garden.

In the greenhouse everything is doing well, some things are almost ready to be transplanted directly into the garden like these lettuces.

Others just need to be re-potted...tomatillos, ground cherries


and broccoli.

Outside the Belgium endive is greening up.

Seed carrots are leafing out.


boc choy,


and Russian kale are looking good.

The red verona radicchio seems to have survived the winter.

along with this wild oregano

and strawberry spinach.

Baby Swiss chard has been transplanted.

Seed onions are still waiting,

but many onion sets have been planted.

While checking on the garlic

I found some forgotten parsnips...dinner?

The gardens are still empty but will soon be filled with a lush greenery that will represent our own personal paradise, if only for a few months.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Foot Loose and Fancy Free

The snow having finally melted, I was able to add another 10,000 Sq Ft section to the chickens realm and they are loving it. They now have around an acre on which to roam.

And will have plenty of shady places in which to protect themselves from the suns rays this summer.

That will have to be enough, if they get too far back into the forest I won't be able to keep an eye on them. Now that's a nice pair of legs.

Shake paw, claw?

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