Friday, February 29, 2008

my path today: building the soil and life at the rootzone

I'm a fan of compost, it can cure just about any soil problem, given time. The first, best and easy answer as a plant and pest diagnostician using the IPM method, many times boils down to proper plant placement, good air circulation, judicious watering, and healthy soil which means soil that is organic, humusy, and properly drained. If only people wanted to hear that instead of reaching for the magic bullet.

I've been composting my yard and kitchen organic refuse for thirty something years now. I get misty just thinking about it.

Our small 50's suburban backyard was shaped into the then-desired uniform flatness by the landscraper bulldozing our topsoil into the cow pasture behind the property line, leaving a cold damp greyish pottery clay for us to raise our vegetables in.

When we bought the house in the 70's, we spent the first years digging and removing 20 year old junipers so hugely overgrown that the boys used them as 'forts', and plug ugly shrub honeysuckle hedges, and weak-wooded Norway maples that shaded the whole damp lot and a badly placed spruce tree that is now a nice front yard accent in my neighbor's yard.

My early flower beds and borders were double dug (by me), and the later ones were done by the 'lasagna' method. I lasagna'd before it was cool - it was just easier on my back and it just made sense.

And in the backyard, on that clay where the honeysuckle hedge once malingered, Herb built a raised bed veggie garden. With dirt hauled in from local dirt sellers, who dumped piles in the driveway that we wheelbarrowed one bleedin' wheelbarrow at a time back to the garden, and bales of then okay Canadian peat, and great piles of leaves from the 150 year old oak and the remaining maples, and all that compost over all those years.
Herb grows delicious tomatoes and peppers.

We have two compost "piles". One in each back corner of the veggie garden. A few fence posts and some wire fencing is all you really need. Mine are mostly screened by shrubbery (a couple of remaining honeysuckles) and on the other side, a large clump of ornamental grass. (I also have a black plastic donated composter thingie artistically anchoring one of my flower beds.)
Can you see the compost pile? back behind the zebra grass (a Miscanthus)?

We compost using the "cold' method. Cold compost has lots of nutrition and good humus left in it. A pile on a tarp is a pile of brown gold.

You've been made to think that cold compost has weeds. Don't worry about weeds. If you refrain from throwing the seed heads of noxious weeds in your pile you shouldn't have a problem with weeds. Weeds are a part of life, you know. Not just philosophically, but the web of life, I mean. What is it that herbalists often say, "A weed is simply a plant whose use has not been discovered (or valued) yet"?

Dammit, I wish I could remember where I learned this little interesting thing so I could provide a link, but did you know that the soil is full of such a diversity of life at the microbe level that scientists have not identified it all yet - they are just beginning the process. Dr. Beirnbaum at MSU says that right there in a handful of soil are more living beings than all the population of humans on earth. Doesn't make you want to put any chemicals on it, does it. A teaspoon of Monsanto's latest petrochemical whizbang might just be a tiny unseen nuclear bomb to that handful of billions of microbes.

As I understand it there seems to be three basic levels of life in the soil. We're all familiar with the creatures we can see - the macro level of life, so to speak... burrowing mammals, toads, worms, various larvae and so on. Then there is the middle level of soil life, fungal mats and strings, nematodes, and stuff like that that you can see with a regular microscope. But what many people don't seem to know is that there is a microbe level of life that supports all of the bigger things. And we are learning more and more that the health of the macro - us and "our" plants and animals - is dependent on the health of the very smallest but most diverse and numerous part of the whole system.
That web of life, that is what the word 'ecology' means.

For healthy soil, you need mineral, that comes from the original rock that the earth was. And you need living organisms, the three levels of life, with emphasis on the smallest, like the foundation of a building. And finally you need food for the microbes. The carbonaceous living matter that recycles endlessly through eons that makes what we so lightly dismiss as dirt, and abuse with bad practice, and depend upon for our future.

As certified Master Composter Phil Downs said at the compost talk he gave to the Master Gardeners last Thursday, honoring our soil with good practice is doing our part "for the next seven generations," (a quote many times attributed to the Native American chief Seattle, but whoever said it first it was a wise and agreeable thing to say.) Just as an aside, my friend Phil also says, at times, in Latin, something about not letting the 'so and so's' grind us down, which I really like.

I'm finally wending my way to the the very interesting thing (that I'm trying to recall the source for but can't, sorry) which is that the roots of plants, including weeds, secrete some chemical that draws or beckons microbes, and then supports their tiny invisible life in the area of the root zone of the plants. So life begets life in symbiosis, at the root zone.

When will those at the top of the food chain learn to support the roots as the roots have always supported them? Oh no, now I'm getting political that's for the cranky blog. But as the end point of all this morning's pondering: I'm wondering if the concept of living mulch to shade the soil and supress weeds and to support microbial life will begin to take hold as more gardeners learn of this?

Thursday, February 28, 2008

My friends get by with a little help from their friends

This .pdf from The American Gardener ( is hereby posted to give my gardening friends who have considered garden blogging and to whom I've suggested 'just DO it!', a tutorial. No excuses!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

just another frabjous day

I thought I had killed my worms. Not murder you know, but maybe involuntary wormslaughter.
My garage is just way cold!

Not my fault, but 1. the worm bin is just too heavy to drag indoors, and 2. because I had added a bit of real garden soil to it to enhance it's microbness, there are probably some insects that I don't want in the house in there as well as my worms. So I didn't bring the bin indoors and didn't maybe expect the worms to live.

How cold is it? Well, the ice cubes that I dump on my overwintering containers of semi-hardy perennials in the garage to 'slow water' them (probably also involuntary plantslaughtered by the low temps) won't thaw. That's a bad sign. If I left a glass of water out there I bet it would be frozen by suppertime.
I've been convinced the worms were frozen, and I even thought up the old lightbulb in the box solution like we did to keep our doghouse warm back in the olden days when we were dog people.
So I go out to dig down in the box today, just to be sure, and the worms are O-TAY!
Yipee! Who knew! Beats me how such a watery pink little moist thing could keep from freezing solid, but there you are!
The main veggie peels and ends I've been composting lately in the compost bin are things you don't necessarily want in your worm bin: onion and garlic skins, cabbage leaves, grapefruit and lemon peels, the odd houseplant leaf. Herb takes his apples to work.
I'll have to peel some carrots and potatoes and give the guys a treat!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Enjoyable reading

I'm having a great time reading this young mother/wife/gardener/activist's blog. She's green, she's not mean, and she writes with a great sense of humor. I laugh out loud at some of her stories.
Don't read here, go there. Then come back.

A winter diversion in floral language

This looks like a helpful article for folks needing a refresher on seed starting. Me, I usually watch Herb starting his tomatoes and peppers before I get enthusiastic about dragging out my stuff, but by then it's late to be starting seeds that need long germinating and growing up, or cold hardy plants that can go out early.

I was just downloading my latest Aubrey photos from my camera and I ran across this pretty photo from the Extension herb garden that I took last summer. (Remember, with Blogger, if you click on the photo you can get the original side photo to pop up in a new window.Then you hit your 'back' arrow to come back.)

Just a simple impromptu bouquet of whatever was blooming at the moment, with my trusty Felco pruner and a backdrop of my canvas chair-in-a-bag. It must have been early enough for the lilac to still be in bloom, I also see calendula, signet marigolds, yarrow, and is that mint? A memory of June! Ahh!

In the Victorian custom of attaching meaning and message to the gift of a bouquet or "tussie mussie", this little bouquet has the hidden meaning of Joy (calendula), Refreshment (mint), Health (yarrow), and Grief (WAH!?!), although alternate lists of floral meanings might also interpret this little bouquet as Sadness or Hopelessness (calendula) and Virtue and Warm Sentiments (mint). I only checked four books and didn't find lilac's significance, but I'm sure there is some master list out there that some scholar has compiled for the truly serious meaningful posie giver where we could find lilac's message.

Here is a winter diversion: find a photo of a combination of flowers that you like and determine the meaning. Or, design a herb and flower garden with a message.
The question came up at the Master Gardener meeting last week on how to find gardening books at a reasonable price. My gardening bookshelf bears an embarrassment of riches - I've collected from thrift shops, charity resale stores (Goodwill), consignment shops, used book stores (Jellybeans), Border's markdown table and back when Borders had an outlet store nearby, yard sales (last year I got a deal from a Master Gardener who was downsizing), public library book sales, silent auctions at herb society and herb associates events, and freebies from friends. Thinking of all of those wonderful sources for my books and the pleasure I've had in getting to sit down with a new (to me) book uncovers a wealth of good memories.
You'd think I'd be smarter by now, wouldn't ya!

Monday, February 25, 2008

The force that through the green fuse* drives the flower

The force that through the green fuse drives the flower
Drives my green age; that blasts the roots of trees
Is my destroyer.
And I am dumb to tell the crooked rose
My youth is bent by the same wintry fever.

The force that drives the water through the rocks
Drives my red blood; that dries the mouthing streams
Turns mine to wax.
And I am dumb to mouth unto my veins
How at the mountain spring the same mouth sucks.

The hand that whirls the water in the pool
Stirs the quicksand; that ropes the blowing wind
Hauls my shroud sail.
And I am dumb to tell the hanging man
How my clay is made the hangman's lime.

The lips of time leech to the fountain head;
Love drips and gathers, but the fallen blood
Shall calm her sores.
And I am dumb to tell a weather's wind
How time has ticked a heaven round the stars.

And I am dumb to tell the lover's tomb
How at my sheet goes the same crooked worm.

From Dylan Thomas: The Poems, published by J.M. Dent & Sons Ltd., London, 1971 Copyright © 1937, 1945, 1955, 1956, 1962, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1971, 1977.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Hands On Organic Garden Workshops

We began on Friday morning. Pat's living room was full of like minded people from all kinds of situations, from home gardeners with city or suburban lots to some with actual farms. Beginner gardeners, experienced, and everything in between. A couple gals from the USDA even, and a few people who want to start businesses of their own.
It looks like a great start to me, I'm looking forward to March when we get our hands in the potting soil!

Here are the particulars from Pat's e-mail. She may have room left in the Saturday class. Look back in my blog for location and contact info.

Learn As You Grow
At Wetham Organic Farm
A Practical Experience in Organic Gardening
Continuing Hands-On Workshops
Throughout the Growing Season
Focusing on Annual Vegetables

Session #: Topics
1. What is Organic? The Philosophy and practice of growing in a healthy, environmentally responsible way. The importance of good soil. Planned biodiversity in and around the garden. Choosing seeds, finding organic seeds, selecting varieties, planning for seed-starting. (February)

2. Appropriate Tools for organic gardening - supplies and tools for seed starting (transplants), soil mixes for transplants, soil blocks, timing for transplants - when to start seeds for early crops or warm season crops. (March)

3. Soil tests, composts and manure, minerals for fertility - beyond NPK, planning and laying out your garden for yearly rotations, transplanting - from seed flat to pack or pot. (Early April)

4. Applying minerals and compost, working the ground - machine or hand, the benefits of raised beds, early outdoor transplanting and direct seeding - cool season crops. (Late April)

5. Starting vining crops, beginning weed and insect control, putting in warm season transplants, thinning early crops for best production ( May)

6. Succession planting for continuing harvests, mulching, pruning and training tomatoes, planning space for fall crops, disease control in vine crops (early June)

7. Care and harvesting for continued production of summer veggies, how to know when it’s done producing, summer cover crops, starting transplants for the fall garden (late June)

8. Direct seeding fall crops, composting, understanding late season production (July)

9. Managing late crops for harvest throughout the fall. (August)

10. What worked this year and what didn’t - beginning the plans for next year by refining design and rotation as well as crops and varieties end of the season chores, using leaves in the garden, winter cover crops. (September)

Friday Sessions: Feb.22, March21, April 11, April 25, May 16, June 6, June 27, July 18, Aug. 15, September 19. Saturday Sessions: Feb 16, March 15, April 12, April 26, May 17, June 7, June 28, July 19, Aug. 16, Sept. 20.

I'm sure my piping on about local educational opportunties is getting a tad tedious to some readers, but I do have a few more to post, and then I take another turn on this path. After all, learning in the winter is my way of maintaining contact with 'the green fuse'* here in the frozen north. (I'll have to post that poem soon...)

Green Thumb Sunday

Join Green Thumb Sunday

Even the cats are shrugging their little cat shoulders, turning around and coming back indoors...

Gardeners, Plant and Nature Lovers can join in every Sunday, visit As the Garden Grows for more information.

I'm dreaming of a green thumb! While other GTS posts are showing plants, and gardens and such things that make us so in love with our growing green world, here in Michigan we are still looking at gardening catalogues and dusting off our seed starting lights. See what we're dealing with! SNOW! and COLD! and at risk of sounding like a broken record... CABIN FEVER!
This was a few days ago, but heck, the days all run together in February.

On a brighter note, my J.L. Hudson seeds did arrive in the mailbox yesterday - I hope a few hours at 26 degrees didn't kill them. But in the same mailbox was a catalogue from FarmTek/Growers Supply... gardener's porn, to be sure. I'm going to spend the rest of the afternoon daydreaming about which greenhouse I'd buy if I won the lottery, and how I'd fit it into the backyard.

(And thank you Blogger for restoring the spell checker!)

Thursday, February 21, 2008

A Message from Pat

Pat, our CSA farmer and organic gardening teacher, sent this message to her list and told me I could post it. In case you aren't a reader of my cranky enviro-green pacifist blog, I should probably tell you here that (over there) I posted a few awfully cranky posts about the big meat recall that is even making a few of my fast food eating friends nervous. The meat, that is, not my cranky blog which they don't read.
Anyway, Pat is on the same wavelength about the disgusting state of animal protein being foisted off on the consumer in this nation, and here is a bit of her message:

Greetings all,
It's been busy around here - or at least, I've been busy.
[Note: I snipped some personal info here - Betsy]

But I have had time to see and read some news about the food supply in this country that just makes me shake my head in disgust and shame. Largest recall of beef ever! The news videos have been frightenening, and have reminded me to talk to you all again about the source of your food.
[Note: Pat attached a copy of the same article I linked to in my cranky green blog - Betsy]

Since you have come so far as to join a CSA in search of better food, I hope you are a receptive audience for further suggestions regarding what you buy and eat. I'm not going to suggest that all of you become vegetarians, although I know several of you are. I am going to let you know - as I have in the past couple of years - that there are better choices for animal products also. We are taking a first step for the CSA by making better eggs available for order this year.
[Note: Yipee! - Betsy]

While I can't provide meats for you, I can lead you in the right direction - local, or at least Michigan, small farms that sell poultry, pork and beef, milk and cheese.
As I organize some sources for you, I hope you will do some research on your own. Where to start? A favorite website of mine is the Sustainable Table ( From it you can read lots of interesting stuff, plus access the websites and the meatrix. The Meatrix is a series of animated videos (3 at last count) that illustrate the problems with confined production of meat. It's easiest to view these with a high speed connection, of course, but most dial-up connections can manage if you are patient with the start and stop process (once you've watched it through once, a replay should come in with out the delays).

If you are still buying meat, milk and eggs from the grocery store, please do some investigating into just how those products are grown and processed. Small local farmers, especially organic ones, don't mistreat their livestock nor do business with the slaughter houses that do.

If you want to connect more with the small organic producers in Michigan, I suggest attending the Organic Conference held each year in March. Michigan Organic Food and Farm Alliance sponsors this event, which now features something for everyone, not just for farmers. MOFFA welcomes your support as a non-farmer attendee of this year's conference. Maybe you'll even want to join! find the information at [In the interest of "full disclosure" I've been on the Board of MOFFA for 16 years and I help plan and organize this conference.]

Wishing for spring to come soon!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


I'm sorry, but this is just too cute. I have to post it for Skip and Tree, who know this cat. In Flora's case, I end up throwing the Kleenex box at her.

I stumbled on it here, while wandering. Nice to know cats are the same, everywhere.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Keeping Genesee County Beautiful Is a Great Idea

I just registered to attend the 2008 Keep Genesee County Beautiful's Annual Community Beautification Conference which will be Saturday, March 1 at the University of Michigan - Flint. I went last year and it was fun, so if you're local, please think of going too!

First, it's educational - you get to go to two workshops of your choice out of these possibilities: exploring community outdoor art ideas, a Q and A with a landscape designer, composting, grant writing for beautification mini-grants, learning to look for the positive, recycling, tree selection and planting, veggies, and volunteer recruitment. Last year I learned about volunteer recruitment and landscaping: this year I chose community art and more landscaping.

Networking. You will see a lot of local gardeners there as we all come out of hibernation to see if the sun is warming up our surroundings yet. Last year the Home Street urban veggie gardeners found each other to hang around together and I also saw a bunch of Master Gardener friends picking up some educational credits.

Let's see, what else would draw you to attend?
It's free, that's always a plus in my book.
There are informational displays from a lot of different organizations that have to do with beautification, conservation, environmentalism, gardening and community. There are goodies and freebies, pencils and refreshments and suchlike. Last year they had a nice KGCB carryall bag for all attendees, and the MGA had the free seed box (for community garden projects) there.

Last year Walker's Farm & Greenhouse gave away some excellent door prizes as well. I must say, now that I've mentioned Walkers Farm, how I have been impressed in the past year by all the support I've noticed they are providing to community beautification projects. Walkers is a family enterprise that's been in our neighborhood for as long as I can remember, and we always bought bedding plants, herbs, and healthy veggie starts there for our own garden. But now that I see them blooming as sustainers of our community it gives me a warm feeling to know they are my local greenhouse.

Michigan: if you're here, ya gotta laugh

This poem came this morning from one of those forwarded e-mails that my friend Bonnie sends:

It's winter here in Michigan
And the gentle breezes blow
Seventy miles an hour
At twenty-five below.

Oh, how I love Michigan
When the snow's up to your butt
You take a breath of winter
And your nose gets frozen shut.

Yes, the weather here is wonderful
So I guess I'll hang around
I could never leave Michigan

'Cause my feet are frozen to the ground!!

Monday, February 18, 2008

A birthday scrapbook

A good find I stumbled on: Smilebox dot com, an easy digital scrapbooking site that's free or you can purchase more features.
Enjoy a few scenes from Kayla's birthday...
Click to play A birthday scrapbook
Create your own scrapbook - Powered by Smilebox
Make a scrapbook - it's easy!

no pay no benefits - the new paradigm

A first person example of the 'sharecropping' I discussed a few weeks ago:
The Paradise Garden dot com has copied one of my better posts "To Bee or Not To Bee", and posted it as "To Bee or Not To Bee by Herb Garden" on his/her website, with a link back to my original post.
You can find it by going to the website, then clicking on the herb garden category in the sidebar, and then scrolling down to find the post.
See, it says "by Herb Garden"!

Should I bee flattered they liked my post enough to steal it for their own content, or bee pissed that they didn't offer to pay me for the use of my content on their commercial, gated, website?

[She begins to hummmmm:
"16 tons and whatdya get? Another day older and deeper in debt. St. Peter don't ya call me 'cause I can't go... I owe my soul to the company store...."]

You may wonder that I complain, but then I use the work of artists, poets and authors to decorate my blog? The difference is, you can read freely here without signing in first, and I don't post other people's work as "by me", with copyrights posted claiming the content as my own. I try to give proper attribution when possible.

I didn't sign up to access that website to see if there is any original content there at all, but if you do, let me know. Who knows if they are gardeners at all, or just using the work of garden writers that they find on the internet to pad out their commercial site?

I also think 'intent' plays a role here. My blog is for my own learning, sharing, and enjoyment. It is definitely not a business. If a poet or writer asked me to remove content, I'd do it in a flash. I also think "fair use" is a good way to go in this activity of blogging.

So anyway, I did a little looking at the offending website, and here is The Paradise Garden's copyright policy, regarding, I assume, their own work:

All Web site design, text, graphics, the selection and arrangement thereof, and all software Copyright © 1997-2008, KYSOG Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Permission is granted to electronically copy and to print portions of this Web site for the sole purpose of placing an order with Paradise Garden or using this Web site as a shopping resource. Any other use of materials on this Web site—including reproduction for purposes other than those noted above, modification, distribution, or republication—without the prior written permission of KYSOG Inc. is prohibited.

Contact Information
Paradise Garden
PO Box 267
Corryton, TN 37721-0267
Our contact form is the best way to reach us.
Our customer service number is 1-800-490-7789. If you'd like us to call you, please email us your phone number and we'll call you at your convenience.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Green Thumb Sunday #4

Green Thumb Sunday

Join Green Thumb Sunday
Gardeners, Plant and Nature Lovers can join in every Sunday, visit As the Garden Grows for more information.

It's true, on some mornings and evenings the snow is blue, purple, or pink. Then, the world all around is monochromatic tones of the same color. So peaceful. But my favorite snow looks like tiny glittering diamonds strewn everywhere. That has to be the meeting of a sunny, blue skied day and a light, flaky snow. I wonder that people who live in the Hawaiian Islands or other tropical places don't get tired of the changeless seasons and all those flowers.
Snow is beautiful, if only it wasn't so COLD. A certified weather ninny, I meditate on the scene from indoors.
This illustration came in email from Dover last week. My all time favorite 'fairy tale', "The Snow Queen".

The spirit of the sleeping garden

... arrived in my mailbox last week.

A surprise "Winter gift" sent from my younger sister, who lives in Washington, in the mountains and woods outside of Seattle, who is a natural artist and craftswoman. She wrote, "I think of her as the spirit of the sleeping garden - waiting for spring." Aren't we all! I wish my photography skills would do justice to the gentle blues and greys in the wool and the sweet bead antennae. (I'll change out the photo if I can get a better one.)
Thank you, Karen!

Friday, February 15, 2008

More seeds

The seeds at the nearby big box go on sale as soon as they are put out. So while I was a Meijers I bought some more seeds:
Dutch Corn Salad Valerianella locusta(which we call Mache)Livingston Seed Co.
Mustard (Mizuna)LSCo.
Roquette (Arugula) NK
Kale 'Dwarf Blue Curled Vates' NK
Mustard Spinach 'Tendergreen' NK
Swiss Chard 'Rhubarb' NK
Dill 'Dukat' NK
and Cilantro 'Longstanding' NK

Looks like I need a nice fresh green salad. Pat Whetham's organic gardening workshops begin this weekend (though I start next Friday), which seems to me a sign of spring, even though the temps are supposed to plunge again tonight. I get cabin fever most when I hear the furnace running so darn much. You can live in Michigan without air conditioning - I did for the first fifty years of my life. But we do need heat. I can't imagine what poor people are doing, mothers with little children in drafty rental housing and seniors, who if they can afford it, crank it up to 82 degrees.
Wouldn't you think the generous politicians who are sending checks for $1,200 to couples who make $149,999 "to stimulate the economy" could have found it in their hearts to vote for heat for the poor? Or extending unemployment benefits?
Don't let me get started, this is the happy blog.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Snowbound with Garden Catalogues - What's a girl to do?

Seeds from J.L. Hudson, Seedsman:
(Shipping= $1.50)
Arnica montana
Astragalus membranicus
Artemisia vulgaris
Ocimum sanctum
French Sorrel

Plants from Bluestone Perennials:
Free shipping because I recycled my packaging
20 percent off my order because I ordered early
(And I used my coupons that Bluestone packs with their plants.)

Daphne x transatlantica 'Summer Ice' (shrub)
Kerria 'Honshu' (shrub)
Veronica 'Waterperry' (3)
Dianthus anurensis 'Siberian Blues' (3)
Dianthus gratianopolitanus 'Bath's Pink' (3) for extension herb garden
Achillea 'Terra Cotta' (3) for extension herb garden
a free surprise three pack
and backordered from last year with coupon:
Dianthus x allwoodii 'Old Spice' (3)
Fothergilla 'Major Mt. Airy' (shrub)

Both orders combined came in at a thrifty $56.00. I'll get some of that back when I plant the 6 plants in the extension garden. I feel pretty good about this, and I'm confident that although Bluestone perennials are small, they are true to name and they arrive healthy. All it takes is patience to increase their value.

I just talked to Norma, our club president, and we're going to ask (with permission from membership) a local herb nursery to be a plant vendor at our 2008 Genesee County Herb Society Herb Symposium in April.
That should make buying plants for the extension herb garden easy and support a good cause at the same time.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Permaculture Demonstration Plot at Michigan State University

Whew, when I look back on that day I remember what hot weather was. Notice the herbs? The USEFUL plants. Herbs can be planted as plant allies in our permaculture planted yards because of their many and varied uses.
Bill Mollison on the video I posted yesterday said he originally thought the word he invented 'permaculture' didn't mean permanent agriculture, but a permanence in culture. Something to chew on.

Doesn't it look like we were having a good time? Some other time I'll post the photos I took of the other workshop, on hoop houses, that was offered as well by the staff at the Michigan State University Student Organic Farm.
You should definitely jump at the chance to attend one of these free day-long workshops if they are offered again this year. Besides the guided tour and plenty of Q and A, they gave out a full notebook of information and for the Permaculture class the book, "Gaia's Garden - A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture" by Toby Hemenway.
It was in part sponsored by the USDA RDA (Risk Management Agency). It is your tax money at work, folks, and I mean that in a good way. This is the kind of thing that will really make Americans "secure", if they start educating themselves and living their "values".

Monday, February 11, 2008

Monday Moaning

The next heating bill is gonna be a doozie!

I just found a Google video that talks about Permaculture, which I'll try to post on my cranky blog in a minute. It's almost an hour long, but you can download it from Google if you like. The Student Organic Farm at michigan State University is building a permaculture demonstration plot that is interesting to see. I went to a one day workshop there last year and will dig up a few photos here.

In the winter when it's 2 degrees outdoors (and the winchill brings the temp REALLY lower and dangerous for us mammals), I read. And bookmark. Adding more links to the sidebar all the time...

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Green Thumb Sunday #3

It must have been June...

Green Thumb Sunday

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Gardeners, Plant and Nature Lovers can join in every Sunday, visit As the Garden Grows for more information.

We were on vacation in the Traverse City, Michigan area in 2006, and stumbled on an iris farm "Open Day"... you could take a clipboard and roam among the rows upon rows of blooming irises, taking notes, making decisions, building a custom order to be sent to your home at the proper late summer/fall planting time.
How cool is that?
And to top it off, the weather was lovely, and the farm had invited artists to come and work in the 'en plein air' style, so every so often we'd get a little culture with our appreciation of Mother Nature's work. Here is one of the artists at the entrance to one of the iris fields.
This was a small family farm that found a new niche. I'd have to dig around to find my notes, but I think you could Google Traverse City and Iris Farm and find the address.
Gardeners might be interested to look at the appearance of the soil - it seemed quite sandy and well-drained. Home gardeners who want to plant cherry trees should pay particular attention to sharp drainage.
That region is one of the fruit tree belts of the nation - Traverse City cherries are famous, and it a wonderful good time to visit roadside stands in the area and buy various kinds of cherries by the quart to snack on as we drive. I'll post some more. (If you click on the photo you can see more detail.)
I'm still not sure I'm doing this GTS right.

Friday, February 08, 2008

For your weekend edification

Edification? Few do it better. Michael Pollan gives a talk on Ted (link). You can download it in audio, a video, or watch it online. One of his insights is completely hilarious... and intriguing. ENJOY!

to Bee or not to Bee

I thought I'd better get busy and post what I've learned about beekeeping from the class I took last weekend at the Genesee County Conservation District.
First, beekeeping looks like fun. A gentle activity with a sweet reward. The bee people look like great folks to get to know - the local bee association even makes sure that if a newbie needs a mentor, you'll get a mentor. That's nice! and the Michigan Beekeepers Association president, Dave, who taught the class said he has an extra bee protection suit at home, and if we needed the experience we could go over to his place and work with him on his boxes.

Two other local beekeepers were there with Dave who answered questions and gave tips and tricks. We got to see all the equipment, the various components of the boxes, and so on. We collected a pile of catalogues and printed information and a website to read:

The first question was about the space needed to keep bees and if there are zoning laws.
15 percent of bees in America are raised right in urban areas! Dave gave an example of a beekeeper with 14 boxes right next to his garage in a residential part of one of the small towns nearby who has been beekeeping for decades with no problem. Out of sight out of mind is the beekeepers philosophy - bees are gentle creatures who don't sting unless they are pretty well forced to. One sting might hurt you but it kills the bee. If the neighbors don't know what that box behind the fence or shrub is, why should they mind? Honey Bees, although not native, are a beneficial part of the natural world and not at all agressive like some other bees and wasps.

Dave talked about how and when to order your bees. The different breeds, how to put them in the bottom "brood chamber" box, and what to feed them until enough flowers bloom for their food.

There are three things you should consider before you invest in bee boxes:
1. Are you raising bees for pollination or honey?
2. Do you plan to harvest comb or liquid honey?
3. Know about stings - even the most careful beekeepers do get stung. Are you allergic?

We discussed the mystery of CCD (Colony Collapse Disorder). Dave said the government is researching the problem very seriously with help from concerned beekeepers. It is a worldwide problem with great consequence when you figure that a third of our food comes from bee-pollinated plants.
80 percent of our bees are raised for the purpose of pollination, only 20 percent for product. Beekeepers who rent their boxes to orchards can suffer huge losses overnight when CCD happens. Each box earns $150-200 dollars, and a truckload of boxes can easily run into many thousands of dollars. An interesting factoid was that for each almond on a tree, the blossom needs to be visited 10 to 20 times!
Dave's take on the issue of CCD is that three conditions must be present, and together, to be deadly to bee colonies: food, the stress of migration, and the varroa mite. Michigan beekeepers are working to breed a stronger bee to thrive in our part of the world.

For Michigan beekeeping beginners, Dave recommended we order Italian bees from California by going in with the local club and ordering together. Your order of bees with one queen arrive at a pre-arranged time in a truck, uncooked and much happier that way.
Order in February or March for delivery in April. If you order bees too late and you get them in May you might miss getting the quantity of honey you would have gotten had you started them before the blossoms are out. Just feed your bees a sugar-water mixture until Mother Nature takes over. When the dandelions are blooming that first time in the spring, you can quit feeding the bees.

Bees are sold by the pound, and a beginner should start with a three pound order for a 10 frame box. You should mark your queen with white-out or nail polish to keep her easily identifiable. She might live 7 years, but usually the egg production declines so that beekeepers will kill and replace their queens every two years. (Worker bees only live 2-3 weeks, so the hive depends on her egg laying to replace workers.)

I won't discuss the boxes other than to say Dave recommended staying with interchangeable sizes and standard equipment. That means the 10-frame box. You can vary the depth of the extra honey boxes (on top of the two base boxes) depending on how much you think you will be happy lifting.
Bee boxes come in kits to put together, but remember "bee space" is very important so be precise. Apparently bees fill "glue" into any crevice, and if the spacing of the frames is wrong (a bee space violation!) they'll build outwards between frames and havok will ensue! Apparently in the bee's mind, an 1/8 of an inch violation is asking for trouble! These guys were all laughing about buying a couple of hive tools (it looks like a crowbar/scraper), and how important it was to have one handy. You will need it.

Set your boxes with the entrance facing east or south for warmth. In Michigan, the morning sun is especially beneficial, and there is no need to shade the hives. You can (latex) paint the hive white to make it reflective, but bees are quite capable of warming and cooling the hive. Dave wraps his boxes on two sides with black tarpaper in the winter. A tree and/or shrub windbreak on the west side of the hive is helpful. Remember wherever you put the hive, you need 15-20 feet behind the boxes for your own access.

Water is critical for cooling the summer hive. A bee will carry water to the hive and drop it between the frames to be fanned by the workers' wings to keep the hive a pleasantly humid, constant 96.3 degrees. In the winter the bees take turns on the inside of the swarm and the outside, constantly fanning their wings to keep the center of the hive a pleasant 96.3 degrees.
The water you provide shouldn't be running water, and the bees aren't picky as to whether it is crystal clear or stagnant. A birdbath, a bucket or a pool are fine. Add a handful of hay in the bucket helps the bees land. Bees do find water in dew and they can travel 3-6 miles (a 6-12 mile "bee range") but most commonly travel 1/4 to 1/2 mile.

Bees sweat wax while they're making honey. A single bee makes about 1/2 teaspoon of honey in its life. You can expect 3 pounds of honey for each pound of wax.
Honey harvest is weather dependent. A typical Michigan beekeeper can expect 70 to 100 pounds of honey a year. A gallon of honey is very dense, it weighs about 12 pounds, so you can figure out how many gallons a box will give you (and why you should order the shallow boxes for the top of the stack.)

Bees sting in clusters because the first bee's stinger will leave a scent that other bees will identify as a threat and they will attack what they think is a danger to their community. Bees are cold blooded creatures - they sense heat, not CO2 as some people think. That is why they go for your face - its warmth attracts them.
An interesting thing I'd never heard was if another insect or small animal gets in the hive, the worker bees will 'ball' around the intruder and raise the temperature with their wing flapping until the victim cooks to death!

Bees do get agressive if varmints have been disturbing the hives, so watch the corners of the boxes for signs of chewing or scratching. Set the boxes up on cement blocks in an accessible area. And if you set out carpet tack strips points up, it will discourage robber racoons and skunks who know enough to lay on their tummies to protect their tender stomach areas from the bees' stingers. Small opening chicken wire or a metal door reducer is used to protect the entrance from field mice in the fall.

When working on your boxes you should wear a sweatsuit under your heavy clothes (so the stingers can't get through the thickness), and makes sure all cuffs and collars are securely closed. Bees don't notice light colors, which is why bee suits are white. A netted hat and leather gauntlet gloves are essential. One beekeeper told us an unused fabric softener sheet in your hat will repel bees.

When you get stung, don't pull the bee off, that leaves the stinger. Scrape it sideways with a credit card to remove the stinger.
Have Benedryl on hand for swelling, and home remedies include tea bags, baking soda, the herbs plantain and comfrey.
Carry 2 epi-pens if you are allergic and don't leave them in your car (cooking destroys their effectiveness.)Shoot yourself in the rear - if you jab it into the hip you can hit your bone. Ow!

We heard a bit about the extraction of honey, and some interesting facets of marketing. For instance, you can extract the honey yourself using leased equipment from the beekeepers club, or take it to another beekeeper who will extract it for you. Your honey house (the room where you do your extraction) should be up to state dairy farm standards - washable walls, etc. Honey has high acidity so just about nothing bad will grow in it, but it must be packaged with care. Inspectors generally won't write citations for extraction but are firm about packaging: the cooker should be stainless and able to heat. You don't need a license to sell from your own property, but if you want to sell in a market or store, you'll need to follow certain labelling rules and get that $70 license. Oh yes, and it is commonly said that the state doesn't work on Saturday, whatever that means.

Dave also highly recommended ANR (Agriculture and Natural Resources) Week at Michigan State University, which you can probably Google easily. The Beekeeping Program at ANR Week is two full days from 8-5:30 (March 7 and 8). It looks very worthwhile.

Can you believe we learned all that in a couple of hours! There was more. too. But you probably want to know if I'm thinking of beekeeping.
Well right now, between having to learn so much more because I think there is more to learn, and the initial cost (I am jobless, after all)... I'll have to say, No, with regret. Maybe next year at this time, I'll have become better organized and less overextended in time and budget, and we'll make the investment. But now I can say I know where to get educated about the subject, I know where to get a deal on local honey and local bee products, and I appreciate the beauty and work of beekeeping.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

A green-washed mind

First, a link in the "useful" category, for web surfing:
Another Seafood Guide
(Our oceans are being poisoned for profit. Buyer beware!)

I was just reading the following article on MiLive, the Jackson Patriot online, and have to mention something here. (I'll insert my commentary in colored font):

Locavore hysteria revisited (the word 'hysteria' in the title already makes me wonder if this is a greenwashing piece?)
Posted by lsmithso
January 29, 2008

As many of you might have heard, the Oxford University Press named "locavore" (one or eats, or attempts to eat, locally grown and produced food) as Word of the Year for 2007.
This was certainly the foodie mantra I learned in South Carolina, where my locavorism was galvanized at the hand of my boss at Charleston City Paper.
I thought I had my take on local tomatoes all figured out. (Now I have to go find out wtf she's talking about there.) Good thing James McWilliams showed up to shake me around. But, as Treehugger pointed out and Boston's NPR (as in National Propaganda Radio?) affiliate reported, there are caveats to that maxim, especially depending on where you live. (People have always moved for jobs... that is how the right to work states in the south managed to grow at Michigan's expense, isn't it? "Where you live" is a choice, now isn't it? May I suggest moving where you live for the purpose of food sustainability? or at least, learning how to eat like a native of your chosen home?)

James McWilliams is a contributing writer for the Texas Observer and currently a fellow in Yale's agrarian studies department. In this "Moveable Feast" piece, he brings thoughtful skepticism (or green washed monkey-wrenching) to the wildly popular (and I might say, rockin' explanatory journalism) go-local credos of Bill McKibben, Barbara Kingsolver and others promoting the concept of "food mileage" and all its ancillary benefits.

His main premise is that geography -- land's ability to actually provide a substantial diet for those who live on it -- is the salient issue when it comes to impact on the earth. And that, rather than focusing so ardently on food miles, we might want to put the Eat Local movement in a broader perspective of changes that accommodate everyone -- and save the planet, of course.
(I'm waiting to hear some ideas he wants us to focus on instead of food miles. {{crickets}}
I'd like to add here, that if you think the status quo is going to save the planet that 'everyone' shares, you are sadly mistaken. A focus on 'food mileage' is the legitimate concern that we should not count our food 'cheap' if it is dependent on burning carbon, carbon from oil, mostly. Burning oil to ship a leaf of lettuce 1,500 miles is killing our shared planet. It is one of many issues in the diverse realm of mindful eating.)

Some of his startling facts:
• Lincoln University in New Zealand "found that lamb raised on New Zealand's fertile pastures and shipped by boat to the U.K. consumed 688 kilograms of carbon dioxide emissions per ton. By contrast, stock produced within the U.K.'s poorly adapted pastures consumed 2,849 kilograms per ton. In other words, it is four times more energy efficient for Londoners to buy lamb imported from the other side of the world than to buy it from a producer in their backyard."
• New Zealand's most prominent environmental research organization, the Landcare Research--Manaaki Whenua, reassessed its position on local consumption after the study was published. "Localism," two Landcare scientists wrote in late 2006, "is not always the most environmentally sound solution if more emissions are generated at other stages of the product life cycle during transport."
(I wonder what other hidden costs those ships are creating? Or maybe lamb, like bananas, should not be cheap or common. Consumers need to understand that their choosing to eat lamb is the problem. )

• McKibben's deeply researched and humanistic accounts of Eat Local victories sparkle for regions endowed with the life cycle systems to pull the victories off. For those of us poor saps stuck in locations where sustainability is a cruel joke, we can only enjoy the experience vicariously, or plan to subsist on beef jerky and well water.
(Okay, I'm missing something here. This writer lives in Michigan , right? She ought to get out more, I mean into nature, a garden, or to a farmer's market. Go over to the Student Ogranic Farm at MSU. Something! Michigan is a cornucopia!

Michigan is a wonderful place for 'foodies'! We can't economically grow coffee, tea, chocolate, olives, bananas, or citrus here, but just about anything else is being done as we speak. Barbara Kingsolver discussed that when she talked about letting the family choose one item they wouldn't be happy without. Id' have a hard time choosing between the coffee and the olives.
I know, Herb could choose to keep the olives and that would free me up to keep my fair trade shade grown coffee.
But as a matter of fact, this year I have severely cut back on buying chocolate, oranges, bananas and out of state and out of season fruit, and we have hardly missed them. Herb still needs his grapefruit and I love an occasional bag of lemons. but we are reducing our food miles by choice. And believe me, we aren't starving or eating badly.

• For environmentally concerned Americans wedded to food mile measurements, the only viable answers for reducing our dietary carbon footprint are to move to a fertile region (Kingsolver, McKibben), to live off root crops, game, and preserved food (Smith and MacKinnon), or to starve (almost Smith and McKinnon).
RUBBISH! add to that ... "Or start to make changes in our personal lives that reflect our values."
My personal take is that we subsidize "cheap" oil by waging trillion dollar bloody wars supported by an unsupportable military presence in the world (we have over 400 military bases on foreign soil.)
To heck with measuring the carbon footprint of a New Zealand lamb that a British Housewife is serving for Tuesday supper! Has anyone ever measured the carbon footprint of the American military?
Your choice is to eat or not eat that "cheap" banana shipped in from some tropical dictatorship, burning that "cheap" oil that my taxes are paying for by a subsidized war machine protection racket... instead of things I would choose to support.
This commentary will be continued on my cranky blog, in the pursuit of happiness and light...

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Anybody you know?

The CSA meet up

Last night Herb and I went to a church downtown to hear about the upcoming offerings of CSA farmers in our area. It was a meeting of potential customers and hopeful growers, all intent on connecting to buy locally grown, hopefully certified organic, fresh and wholesome food by the farm supporting "subscription" method.

The manager of the Flint Farmer's Market, Dick Ramsdell, should be thanked for arranging the meeting. A few of the growers are actual vendors at the market, but he offers us all the market as a central meeting place to drop off and pick up our shares. It is wholly a thing that he thinks should be done, to introduce urban consumers who have lost contact with their food source to the actual people who make their living by producing our food, and he arranged this meeting on that principle, with or without the profit motive for the market.
He did mention that the fresh local idea is growing so well he is hearing about more vendors building hoop houses so that we can have fresh local greens in the winter soon.

I took plenty of notes, but didn't really need to, as I planned to re-subscribe to Whetham Farms' CSA considering our good experience last year. Three of my gardening friends, Mel and Bonnie and her husband Chuck, are joining, too.

There is a lot of information out there if you still need to be convinced. Some of the handouts were straight from the web:

Local Harvest has a lot of information on CSAs.

What is a CSA? is from this site in Lebanon!

Five Reasons to Buy Local is from Community Alliance With Family Farmers a good site with lots of links...

And Mr. Ramsdell recommended one of my favorite sites for loads of reading (that this city girl only discovered last year): ATTRA - National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service

Here is a list of the goods that growers were offering, just to show a bit of what we can buy fresh, and local, and (hopefully) organically grown or at least grown with as sustainable practices as possible:

vegetables, greens, pumpkins and squash, potatoes, heritage tomatoes and cucumbers
fruit, raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, apples (heritage), pears, peaches, plums, grapes soon, sweet and tart cherries
flowers, gourds
maple syrup
chickens, range and tractored
turkeys, heritage varieties
grassfed beef
milk soon

One grower said they raise 90 varieties of vegetables.
One grower said she raises 30 to 40 varieties of heritage tomatoes.
One farmer's antique apple trees are coming into production.
One grower is offering a monthly workshop.
One grower said they have two festivals during the season.
We heard terms like sustainable, heritage, hormone free, pastured.
We heard plans and dreams and goals, some of them realized.
One farmer's land has been in the family for 5 generations!
One farmer's daughter is taking the organic farming program at Michigan State University!
There was a lot of hope for the future in that room last night.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Beware the kerfuffles of February

Posting a little poetry here to keep the interior world green. But first...

There is a kerfuffle ongoing in the gardening blogosphere, a place separate from the real world unless you are a gardener and on the computer a lot. The problem being it is February and there is always kvetching in February among gardeners.
Believe me, this is nothing new.

I used to read gardening bulletin boards in the 1980s when the internet was a baby and communication was all words no pictures, and screens were black or green and white, back in the days before the internet was a pretty place with expert digital photography all over it and even movies with sound! Gosh oh gee. How far we have progressed (she says in her old, ironic voice.)

In those days there were arguments, and flame wars over minutia and things could get ugly. I got flames on AOL for some legit advice. Minutia. I will not go into it.
I also posted the first (as far as I know) instance of a virtual online "party" to get folks talking with civility once again to each other. People who read the AOL gardening bulletin boards may remember it. There was also a virtual big dog involved who broke a lot of ice and melted hearts when he left.

In the 90s (my timeline is obscure - I can look it up for you but that exact time is not the point) some bulletin boards on big servers like AOL and Prodigy hired nice folk to mother (monitor) the flocks, and garden communities grew and leaders developed, and smart people made their own meeting places like Gardenweb and the Garden Gate and so on.
Then websites became cheap and easy, and blogs became free and even easier, and we are now at the totally diverse and decentralized place where we are today. I still discover new gold nuggets every day.

You can read forever, it's like Second Life ... a virtual world of gardening where the sun never sets and the boots never get muddy and backs never get rusty hinges. And now bloggers who feel lonely talking to their screens, or want to make communities to either limit or expand their world, or who like to get more readership and maybe earn something from their work are again changing the landscape of the virtual garden world.

Anyway, before I got off of my path, I wanted to say that the latest kerfuffle among bloggers is about something called "sharecropping" a word that you will recall derives from the once extensive practice of the poor man using another man's land to feed his family, labor his life away, and stay in lifelong debt bondage to the masters of our ownership society. A word invented by a post war return to feudalism.
How "sharecropping" was assigned to cribbing from someone else's blog is something I need to think about more - maybe you can explain it?

If you cut and paste from another person's work is it stealing, or is "imitation" (with a link OF COURSE) the sincerest form of flattery?

There are all sorts of opinions circulating and toes being stepped on and lines being drawn and I recall this happening (by happenstance) just before the 2000 election as well.
All I can say, since I am not really a joiner, even with my real life participation in gardening clubs, and I won't be kicked out of any "web ring" or blog list or anything virtually important for saying this, all I can say is...

Grow up folks, it's the internet.

Decentralization, that was the whole original concept of the internet if you recall Arapanet. You know, that thing Al Gore really did make a priority for government funding (And also recall how that got cleverly twisted by twisted people to use against him. Don't believe me? How many times did you hear people superciliously repeat, "Oh yeah, Al Gore invented the internet. He's such a liar..." If you care, figure out who the people were who invented that meme, it'll help you vote more intelligently next time if you take what those same people say with a grain of salt.)

Decentralization was supposed to make the Internet (which carries much more critical information than our virtual gardening musings) invunerable to attack by foreign powers or terrorists.

Diversity, gazillions of bits of information, that is what makes the internet an infinite gold mine for the development of our shared human intelligence and intercommunication.

We are not in high school, folks. Flame wars are for unhappy bored people, they are limiting and whiny and take up valuable time and waste our intelligence. Some people think it is a fun sport to stir things up.

we cut. we paste. we borrow. we recreate. we spread the knowledge, we build on it - if you re-format it yourself that is a bonus - if you have an idea, share it. Nothing is new, just unvisited. Nothing is sacred, just ideas that are unvisited.
Don't tell a True Gardener you can't plant a white garden, or even talk about a white garden, just because it was done before.
True Gardeners love to share cuttings, advice, dreams and schemes; they even work together for the fun of working together.

These ideas of "freely sharing" and grassroots multiplicity and diversity are being explored in the greater world: is our religion the only religion, is file sharing stealing, is privacy a dead concept, are cheap Chinese knockoffs killing the patent, is Microsoft buying Yahoo going to kill Google!
Maybe our opinions on these questions is a way of seeing how the world divides itself. So called conservative or so called liberal.

Hmm, Let me take a swing at those big questions:

One true religion: One political party's avowed branch of a small religion is in world scale not the only religion, the truest religion, or even the major religion. Please don't cram yours down my throat.
You like estate landscaping, I like a small niche garden. We're both gardeners, and we can enjoy each other's gardens without judgement over which is RIGHT.

File sharing is one way people who can't afford to buy vast libraries of music can form opinions to make wise purchases and find new (and perhaps non-corporate) artists. We do support artists we admire, once we have plowed through the loads of dreck to find them.
A garden can be grown from traded seeds or from expensive transplants, it's the art that matters.

Our privacy is robbed and data-mined and sold, and used against us, but a privacy is a goal listed in our once sacred Bill of Rights back when we were serious citizens who dreamed of democracy.
We garden bloggers share our personal information TO A POINT, but we draw lines and plant hedges. We hope readers will respect our private life in the spirit with which it is shared.

I don't shop at Wallymart. If you do, don't complain about China.
True Gardeners care about the planet, and the amazing life on it. And we try our best to act accordingly.

I heart Google. It is decentralized. It is not targeted to my preconceived beliefs and habits and data-mined preferences. MS buying Yahoo only will serve people who are afraid of being confronted by all of the new ideas that you run into out there in the great big world.
The virtual garden has it all. Have fun, learn, share.

These opinions are subject to change.
They are my opinions. If you have another way of looking at the world, write your own blog.

On this convoluted note, I cut and paste this from another blogger, but he didn't write it either and I misplaced the link (I am correctable, just write.)

The garden is rich with diversity
With plants of a hundred families
In the space between the trees
With all the colours and fragrances.
Basil, mint and lavender,
God keep my remembrance pure,
Raspberry, Apple, Rose,
God fill my heart with love,
Dill, anise, tansy,
Holy winds blow in me.
Rhododendron, zinnia,
May my prayer be beautiful
May my remembrance O God
Be as incense to thee
In the sacred grove of eternity
As I smell and remember
The ancient forest of earth.
~a Chippewa song

Post note: I want to mention here that my blogger spellcheck button has not worked for days now. Sorry if I have mispelled something, but hey, you get what you pay for, dontcha know.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Green Thumb Sunday #2

My second attempt to do a GTS post, the first time on a Sunday:
Join Green Thumb Sunday

Gardeners, Plant and Nature Lovers can join in every Sunday, visit As the Garden Grows for more information.

Two primroses, a teacup violet outgrown it's teacup, a sweet marjoram, and a few succulents. I buy a few primroses at the grocery store every year in January to perk up the winter doldrums with their leafy greeness and crayon colored flowers. They'll be planted later in the garden and most of them come back for at least a few years and they'll bloom for me in cool moist weather.

Same with the sweet marjoram. If you keep your eye out for them, the potted herbs in the produce department go on sale occasionally. You can get your investment back if you grow a sweet marjoram or rosemary, keep it pinched to make it branch, and plant it in the garden come spring. Come Spring.

Friday, February 01, 2008

A Local Hero

Anyone who has ever brought a turfgrass sample to the Home Horticulture help window at the Genesee County Extension, or seen the sample turfgrass plots there, or who has asked for help on the Master Gardener Plant and Pest Hotline, or who has Ask(ed) a Master Gardener a gardening question at the Flint Farmer's Market or a myriad of other venues, has probably met and spoken to, or otherwise assuredly been helped by one of my local heroes, Jim.

He is a model for us all in how to grow older gracefully. Jim lives his compassion by active community volunteering. He always has a hug and an encouraging word for the rest of us.
Jim shares his wisdom by maintaining a vital interest in everything, with his dogged pursuit of continuing education, and then in his turning around and giving back his knowlege, for free, to the community.

Jim has had a setback and this note came today from Terry on the Master Gardener list-serve:

Genesee Master Gardener Volunteers:
An absolutely wonderful medical update on MG Jim Fearon's condition: Jim was taken off the respirator yesterday afternoon, and is breathing on his own, awake, alert, and talkative! He is being transferred out of intensive care late this afternoon. These are amazing developments, and his family and friends are so very thankful for your continuing thoughts and prayers!

All I can say is, stay with us, Jim. We need you here. Spring is coming and our world wouldn't be the same without you.

Jim is the handsome guy on the right in this photo:

The usual suspects: Don, Ruth, Me, Sue, Phil, Mary, and Jim.