My humble gardening column...

New articles for the gardening novice or for those just needing some inspiration, just click here! Shameless self promotion, but my humble little column needs all the help it can get. Side note: I need to explore more free lance work. And alternate career options.

Photos for the container garden article are by the lovely Emily. Thank you!


Lovely Sunday

Sunday started with some home made chocolate cherry chocolate chip scones.

And then, after playing with the chicks and a vigorous yoga class (I got to sport my new yoga mat bag!) and soak in the hot tub, we went for a stroll around our neighborhood, opening our eyes to the sudden wonder of spring...in February!
The crocuses...

The laughy-daffy-dils...


The forsythia:

The camelia:

And Portland wouldn't be Portland in spring without the cherry blossoms.


Joyful! Joyful! We adore thee!

It's amazing how much one sees when one looks...

...including, Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier, and Mt. Baker from a footbridge across the I-5 near our house (Helen's pictured).


Latest addition to the homestead


We did it! We took the wild, somewhat spontaneous plunge, and bought three baby chicks. Two ameraucanas and one black australorp. 
Our current tally is now:
2 humans
2 felines
a whole lotta redworms
3 baby chicks

I believe the selling point was the fact that we have 10 weeks until the coop needs to be ready, so after we finish the bee hive and introduce the bees to their new home, we'll still have a month to prepare a suitable coop.  Currently, they're nestled under their heat lamp, resting from the journey to the new home.

I don't plan on naming them. They are here for amusement and entertainment, but also to feed our soil, eat our slugs, feed us eggs, and eventually, provide us with meat, and I hereby vow this: if I can't eat them then a vegetarian I become. I will end the sham of distancing myself from my meat. I will admit that I'm a hypocrite, and I will happily eat vegetables and fruit from my garden, eggs from my chickens, honey from my bees, and cut meat from my diet entirely.


How my garden grows

I have been living in a world of awe and amazement while ideas formed from colorful pictures in seed catalogs turn, rather quickly, into life. So recently, I was sitting in front of a fire, flipping through a stack of catalogs, listing everything I wanted, determined to grow, grow, grow as much as I could. And now, here they come. Every morning, I greet my seedlings, and every night, I wish them goodnight. When I get home from work, I rush to them, and about ten times a day, I stand over them, smiling, coaxing, encouraging their journey, their dance.
I have marigolds and heirloom tomatoes, including the orange fleshed purple smudge tomatoes, which supposedly aren't great for raw eating, but I don't care. I can't wait to see their colors in my garden and I plan to jar as much tomato sauce as I possibly can. I also have sunflowers growing almost at the speed of sight, and I've decided to get more, perhaps some tiger-eye mix sunflowers and some crimson sunflowers.

I also have peppers that have germinated well, fat sweet bell peppers that I can't wait to stuff with brown rice and herbs and grill, and aci sivri hot chile peppers. Perhaps I will make some hot sauce with these. And I have lettuce germinating, and with the weather we've been having, it's time to finish my cloche and get that going. Tomorrow, I'm going to plant more greens for my cloche, some kale, spinach, and arugula.

I plan to let a portion of my yard go to wild flowers, scattering seeds for cosmos, borage (good for bees, strawberries, and eating. The tender young leaves are apparently good in salads and tea) and bee balm and other colorful, pollen filled blossoms to feed my bees. I also plan on having foxglove and hollyhocks, which I love.

For tea and herbs, I want to plant a rose bush that produces rose hips, German chamomile, peppermint, sage, basil (lots of basil!), thyme, bergamot (which may be a challenge), oregano, and lemon verbena. Rosemary is not really necessary. I can pick as much as I want to every time I take a walk, as it grows in large, sprawling shrubs that survive the mild winters here in Portland.
And of course, I have to have some catnip for Elijah. They say that catnip planted from seed does not interest kitties in the least, but transplanted, cats go wild over it. So I'm going to look for some to transplant after spring officially arrives.


Sankofa is a Ghanian proverb that means returning to the past to make moving forward possible. Here's an article from last July about how urban farming is like a revolution. A revolution without guns, but with seeds.


A wannabe farmer keeps on dreaming...

My next door neighbor Amy's chicken Peet has laid a few of her brown eggs, the first eggs her lovely ladies have lain. And she just gave us some tenderloin from Afton Field Farm's Valentine's Day Special, which she discovered on the blog High Heels in the Barnyard (sounds like Carrie from "Sex in the City" goes camping, only much cooler).

Meanwhile, I signed myself up for a free chicken raising workshop on Saturday at Livingscape Nursery. I'm getting bees and have red worms, so why not chickens? And maybe a duck. The workshop is free, and I'm gradually becoming more and more sickened by grocery store poultry, dairy, etc., even if I buy eggs from so-called free-range chickens. I want to be as close to the source of my food as I can possibly be.

yoga matt bag

On Tuesday night, I sewed myself this yoga mat bag, following the directions from Simple Sewing by Lotta Jansdotter. It's not perfect; yet, it's the most complicated sewing project I've possibly ever endeavored. I'm thinking the mad-hatter hats that I used to make were easier. I like the monkey pocket for cell phone and keys:

My next sewing projects will be napkins and coasters, and some boot-cut legwarmers for BRC, to sport myself and to gift. Then, onto more complicated projects that I've been scheming and dreaming up, including a long jacket with flaming applique and arm cuffs that flare out like wings.

In bloom

Here is a photograph of my orchid a few weeks ago, a bit blurry, but swelling and growing. And here she is today:


book 8: The One Straw Revolution

The One Straw Revolution: An Introduction to Natural Farming, by Masanobu Fukuoka, published by New York Review of Books, is a manifesto about living closer to nature and embracing our connectivity while accepting and feeling liberated by the limits of human knowledge. Part user's manual and part spiritual memoir, this book is one that shook me at my core in a very personal and possibly life-changing way. Fukuoka discusses his realization that human knowledge is based on nothing, and he is liberated from what he thought he knew. This led him down a radical path of natural farming, and he outlines the basic principles of natural farming.
But for much of the book, he takes the reader on a spiritual journey beyond how-to, examining the necessity for a holistic view, rather than a discriminatory view, of the world. An allegory for this would be studying bees. A discriminatory view would be a specialized study of bee anatomy and habits without seeing flowers or trees or water or predators or any of the other myriad of things that a bee sees. A holistic view sees that all of nature is connected, with a web of relationships and many roles for each aspect to fulfill in creation of a whole balance. He talks about the discriminating diet vs. the natural diet. The discriminatory diet relies on facts about nutrition (which is always changing and often wrong), whereas a natural diet relies on the availability of local food and on taste (he argues that our food should be delicious).

I can't pretend to understand all of Fukuoka's insights, but I was touched by this book. It was published in 1978, and so a forerunner of permaculture and an important book well worth the read.



I want a revolution,
so I will plant a garden.

I want to change the world,
so I will plant a garden.

"The more people do, the more society develops, the more problems arise. The increasing desolation of nature, the exhaustion of resources, the uneasiness and disintegration of the human spirit, all have been brought about by humanity's trying to accomplish something. Originally there was no reason to progress, and nothing that had to  be done. We have come to the point at which there is no other way than to bring about a 'movement' not to bring anything about." --Masanobu Fukuoka, The One Straw Revolution


I had to share the beautiful photographs and sentiments of Flower Hill Farm's latest post, "Garden bloggers BEE long together." The photographs make me teem with excitement and joyful energy! I can't wait to take photographs such as these of my own bees sipping the nectar of flowers I have grown for them and share them with the great community of gardening bloggers.

Flower Hill Farm's blog is always like a walk through a verdant, lush summer day thanks to the amazing photographs, and I thank them.

book 7: Notes from No Man's Land by Eula Biss

Published by Graywolf Press, St. Paul, Minnesota, 2009

"To flee within your own nation is to create a kind of captivity for yourself. A self-imposed exile. And so, the despair of the suburbs" (from "Babylon").

This evocative book speaks on race and identity with creativity of thought, powerful metaphor, and associative language. At times these essays terrified me, made me feel culpable and ashamed of my own belief in artifice and myth as she simultaneously pointed out her own growth within her understanding of identity and race in the U.S. She writes about alienation and community, often simultaneously. And she is able to take and compare the surprising and unexpected in order to make insightful, startling comments on our past and on our present society and culture. This book is worth buying and sharing and reading over again.


Portland Grows Verticle

On Jan. 30, the New York Times published this article about the federal government's plan to build a vertical garden along the side of one of Portland's main federal buildings. I'll be eager to see how these plans develop and finalize!