The Spiritual Tea Garden (and letting go)

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The community came together and helped save our shop.  An interest free loan from a customer helped smooth out stress.  The beautiful shop in Elizabeth will remain nurtured and cared for as Shyanne’s.  I am trying to release the need to control and know every outcome.  Maybe we will make it until the lease is up, maybe for many years to come, I must release what I cannot see.  For now, it is a lovely testament to a community who came together and helped us remain open.

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I am not sure when it began but what started as divine inspiration turned into stalking the bottom line.  Ideas became web domains and joy became stress.  I am trying to quiet my mind and listen and not plan out every detail of my next chapter.  I am letting it fall together in pieces of timely thoughts and guiding purpose.  I am not rushing to choose a name.  I am not getting the website. I am not plotting every detail as I have in the past.  The idea of jumping back into a full blown business defeats me at present.  Farmer’s markets, shows, promotion, packaging…it all exhausts me to think of it.  I want to serve and to be more generous.  I want to extend my wisdom and my heart to those around me and that gets lost when I am trying to reach a financial goal.  I don’t want a business, I want a purpose.

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Three years ago sitting in the prairie grasses beneath ancient cottonwoods with five owls perched around me, the names of herbs popped in my head that I had not heard of and I jotted them down.  I researched them and was astonished to learn their spiritual uses and properties.  My love affair with herbs as spiritual medicine ignited.

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As I worked with Native American elders I learned the uses of cedar, sage, tobacco, sweetgrass, lobelia, and others to help purify and bless spaces and people.  I found that I innately knew what herbs healed what spiritually.

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I am a medical intuitive and I see physical illnesses like tumors and breaks but I also see spiritual wounds and heartbreak.  The herbs that are used to heal physical ailments also work on the same system of the body for spiritual health.  Heartbreak, rejection, trauma, dementia, stress can all be healed by herbs, as well as manifesting love, clarity, inspiration, grounding, or connection with the divine to increase joy and purpose in every day.  I am fascinated by the medicinal and soul empowering aspect of herbs.

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I am listening.  I am not moving quickly.  I have a dream of many gardens filled with herbs and flowers.  I grew dozens of varieties last year and this year I hope to double that.  I had a feeling that I should purchase some organic base teas to blend with my spirit teas.  Organic Assam, Yerba Mate, Rooibos, smoky Lapsang Souchong, along with the Jasmine I grow will act as carriers for my herbal blends.  There is sacredness in tea.

I had a dream last night of raised garden beds of herbs with fairy lights around them.  I hadn’t thought of that. I always put the herbs along fence lines or along the house.  To designate space for specific herbs is a beautiful idea.

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The universe is my marketing director and those that need me will find me.  I can give back and heal and be generous and trust.  I stay quiet and listen to the plant spirits.  There is nothing to do right now but learn and be grateful.  And maybe have a cup of tea.

How to Make Raised Garden Beds Easily and On the Cheap

I pour myself more sludge (strong coffee) as I write, the world encompassed in white, me not trying not to fall under SAD (seasonal affective disorder), knowing in a few weeks I will be planting those first seeds.

I told you that I was going to move the garden to the backyard because zoning had come by last fall and given me a warning post-garden to clean up my front yard into fancy neighborhood status.  I thought it would be easier to grow grass and flowers in the front yard and fence off a 25×25 designated garden in the back yard.  Enter large puppy, large expense for fencing, and here I am back in the front yard.

The weeds last year were incredible.  I have never seen lamb’s quarters ten feet tall!  I have never experienced mallow whose roots may actually tickle the top of Australia.  I was humbled.  This year I know we will still have weeds (they are medicine and food, but they do like to take over the world some…) but this year I will be a little better prepared.  Even though my crops did great in their sandy, never-been-gardened spaces I did want to amend the soil.  Did I mention on the cheap?  Because I never have as much extra money for gardening as I think I will!

This first-of-several beds coming this spring is a combination of everything I have learned over the years.  It is part Hugelkultur, part Permaculture, part straw bale gardening, part raised bed, part ingenious way to use what I have on hand.

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First I laid down sheets of cardboard.  Cardboard will break down within one season but it will help immensely in keeping weeds down.  I sure wish I hadn’t sent all that cardboard to recycling!  I would have layered on a few extra sheets of cardboard if I had it.

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I thought of large stones.  I thought of cinder blocks.  I thought of 2x4s.  I checked the bank account, and went into the back yard to see what I could find!  I have large limbs from the dying Elm tree that were ready for firewood.  We have lots of wood right now and these are so beautiful with the bark still on them.  They were easy to place in an 18×4 rectangle (with the help of my husband) to create a frame.

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Then two to three inch slabs of straw went on top of that.  The straw will suppress more weeds, will create an airy environment for the seedlings, will break down and become mulch and amendments, and helps fill the space so I didn’t have to buy so much garden soil.

Next went on pails of finished compost.  It never fails to amaze me that a banana peel in six months becomes dirt.  That scraps, and straw, and grass clippings, and chicken straw, and everything I put out there turns into rich, dark compost.  I won’t have enough for all the beds I am planning on putting in but I can purchase mushroom compost pretty cheap once I run out of my own.  It is only for this year.  From here on out my own compost will act as fertilizer in spring and fall sprinkled on the beds.  I won’t need quite as much.

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Then went on five bags of organic gardening soil.  I wanted to get it spread on the new bed now because it will have a few weeks to settle into the straw.  I want to make sure I don’t lose seeds in the settling soil!  We will know in a few weeks if I need more soil.

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The tiny trees I planted are in the tomato cages.  They will be watered regularly by being in the garden bed.  Once they grow nice and tall in as many years and begin to shade the patch, the patch can move.  Gardening is as much about flexibility as it is growing food.  Nature will work with you.  The main idea is to improve the soil and to create as many perennials so that each year we have more and more food and we are helping the soil regain health.

Done!  Now, the straw will try to sprout but the grasses easily pull out.  If a weed makes it through eight inches of cardboard, straw, and soil, it, too, will be easy to pull out.  At the end of the season I will pour some leaves, straw from the chicken coop, etc on top, and blend it in come spring.

*Side note- the empty soil bags will be set around perennial herbs and bushes with straw or wood chips placed over.  Weeds will not get through them!

Grab another cup of coffee, Folks, and hang in there.  We are almost back in the garden…

 

To Grow and Forage One’s Own Food

home 4Soon.  Soon now the dark greens of earth will peek through the moistened soil and seek the sun.  Dandelions will unexpectedly be dancing through the grasses.  The mulberries, black and velvet, will stain my fingers as I gather them.  Perhaps the squirrels will leave some walnuts for me.  And this is the year for the plum tree to fruit.

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To forage for food gives a great satisfaction to the spirit but to forage amongst one’s own gardens and land is spectacular.  I can already taste the cleansing lamb’s quarters, the tangy purslane, the scrumptious dandelions interspersed with sweet butter lettuce fresh from the garden.  Just dressed with good olive oil and sea salt, the tastes of spring come forth and fill my body with nutrients after winter’s rest.  Soon.  Soon now.

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I am reading a beautiful book called, “A Year in the Village of Eternity” by Tracey Lawson.  It takes place in Italy, in the village of Campodimele, one of the Blue Zones, where the most active and healthy elders live.

Cibo genuino. Real Food.  Roba nostra.  Our own things.  I let the many Italian words roll off my tongue and take their lessons.  Real food.  Our own things.  Grow an orto, a garden.  In this village they forage or grow nearly everything they consume.  Is it possible?  Last year on our own little third of an acre in town, in soil fit for a driveway, we grew all of our own produce for the summer.  Our first season here with little time or money.  Now we have eggs from our chickens.  We have planted many fruit and nut trees (if I can just keep the puppy from thinking they are sticks to play with!), we are recognizing more and more wild foods, and are growing many more vegetables this year in better soil.  Contadino.  Farmer or gardener who produces their own food.

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I cannot wait to feel the soil in my fingers.  Soon.  Soon.  The season comes earlier where we live now and in three short weeks I will be folding spring crops into the cool ground.  What preserves shall we do this year?  I imagine lilac and lavender jam, stewed tomatoes, crisp fire roasted corn.  We are enjoying our larder these winter months.

To live like this is to be ready at all times, for what you seek or what you want to “put up” may not be there tomorrow.  Herbs must be harvested when ready.  Fruit may be eaten by birds at dawn.  Piles of corn need shucking.  Ah, but I enjoy the work.  I love our evening walks after dinner in the sunlight.  I love the sound of water covering plants and the crisp sound of the pea pod being opened.  Ogni cosa ha il sua momento.  Everything has its moment.

For now I have winter preserving to do so that it is done once the busy season starts.  In my cucina this week dozens and dozens of jars of beans will be put up.  Vegetable broth too.  I still have beans from the garden to shell.  I will check on my vinegars and my kombucha.  I have been resting and a tad neglectful.  But now as each day falls closer to spring, I awaken, don my apron, and get to work.  In campagna, c’ e sempre da fare! In the countryside (or city as the case may be) there is always something to do!

 

 

Homestead Gardens and Winter Rest

20180103_073048The first seed catalogue arrived in the mail the other day.  My four year old granddaughter, Maryjane, took a sharpie and circled everything we need to order.  Instead of toys, she circles plants in seed catalogues.  She is one of us.

It is impossible, I believe, for a homesteader to not think of the garden at all times of the year.  I am creating a new space, roughly 500 square feet of ground.  A square, fenced in, next to the chicken coop, three feet from the porch turned greenhouse we are planning, and ten feet from the compost.  I dream of the colorful rows of fresh produce, the front yard of fruit trees and medicinal herbs, the patches of volunteer vegetables and wild foods.  But, these gardens, of course, cost money.  Fencing, glass, extra compost, and seeds do not come cheap.  I know it will all come together wonderfully and before I know it, I will be sitting here next year pondering the next season’s garden!

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I do love January, even if it is not my favorite month in the least.  It makes me rest.  We homesteaders aren’t much for rest.  We are a lot less anxious with our hands dirty, faces in the sun, planning, harvesting, moving.  The ground is asleep.  My fingernails are clean.  And I can dream, and January brings that lovely reflective sense of peace and accomplishment.  We dine like kings on everything we stored in the root cellar, freezers, and pantry from this last season.  We remark how beautiful our house is and our yard is coming together and in just short of one year’s time, we have transformed it into a working homestead.  Our hearts are overwhelmed with gratitude.

Hawks swirl and the large lake is out our south windows and the city bus rumbles by out the north panes proving you can homestead anywhere.  I write on my list that I need lamp fluid for the oil lamps and more tea candles.  Wood is chopped and piled by the stove.  The chickens are waiting to be let out.  The farm dog sleeps and I need another cup of coffee and a sharpie so I can start circling items in the seed catalogue and create dreams for spring.

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The FSA (Family Supported Agriculture)

veggie 2“Do you know what you want in your FSA this week?” I asked Emily.  Eggs, goat cheese, beets, potatoes, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, carrots, sage, and pumpkin piled into the cooler.

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I have always been on that in-between-sized farm.  I can grow a lot of produce, but I have run into a few problems with a small farm.  When I take produce to the farmer’s market, most folks will pass up my small display to go to the big farm tables.  You have to have a big, vibrant display to get folks to stop.  I tried to do a CSA (community supported agriculture) one year and some weeks my customers got a lot, and sometimes barely a shoe box.  We used to pick the best to go to the market and for the CSA’s and then ended up with the garden dredges ourselves, or worse, out to eat because we didn’t have enough!

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This year I took produce to the market early on and ran into the very same problems so I stopped.  Our kale is still four feet high out there and vibrant ruby beets line the row.  We have eaten more of our own produce then we ever have before.  We put up quite a bit as well.  I still have Jerusalem artichokes, sweet potatoes, potatoes, and cabbage to harvest but the garden is sleepily falling into slumber.

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I have found more joy in delivering large bundles of produce to my grown children then I ever did going to market.  Knowing that they are eating delicious, organically grown produce, cheese, and eggs makes this mama’s heart happy.  I always throw in some meat from my friends’ ranches.  It is my way of giving gifts to my kids.  I can’t always help them repair their cars or pay their bills, but I can feed them.  It’s what I do best.

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FSA stands for Family Supported Agriculture.  Payment comes in the form of a hug, and that is just right for me.

The Autumn Gardens (Spring and Fall Crops and the Great Harvest)

20170929_121332Fall crops grow beautifully and swiftly in their haphazard rows.

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The spring crops that I painstakingly place inches apart in the early cool of spring take awhile to germinate in the cold and then go to seed when summer decides to come on strong.  When those very same seeds are planted in  late July or early August they germinate quickly from the warm soil, ample water and light.  Then the nights become brisk and they soak up the cooling temperatures and thrive, which is why they are called cold crops!

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Of course I have all the energy in the world in April.  By then I have been dreaming of my garden for many months and am ridiculously excited to break ground.  By late summer we are getting tired of weeding and daily waterings and bugs so fall crops look more like mosaic puzzles than long tidy rows of food.

I had one bed pretty clear from the spring crops so I roughed it up with the hoe and planted-or rather, kind of threw in- a bunch of seeds.  Carrots, spinach, lettuce, peas, cabbage, and radishes came up with the colors of early spring with no help from me.  I forgot to water the seeds several times.  And yet they surprised me with their delicious arrival.

There are still tomatoes and other delicious summer crops in the garden.  The weather speaks of a freeze coming Monday.

Seeds and plants want to grow.  They are hard wired to do so.  As an experiment when the flea beetles came to town to chow down the cruciferous crops, I left a few of the broccoli and others to see what would happen.  I think we will have broccoli cheese soup tonight.  This garden has been a lovely experiment this year, one I allowed myself to do being in a new climate and a new place with un-amended soil.  Amazing.  Plants never fail to thrill me.  I think I will have radishes for breakfast.

A Great Farming Book and Why Every One of Us Needs a Garden

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With very little work I am still pulling out baskets of tomatoes, cucumbers, cabbage, beans, squash, and greens from the gardens.  The nights are getting cool enough that tonight I will need to bring in the houseplants.  Crickets still sing for summer as I write.  These gardens have been such a lovely respite.  They didn’t cost much to start or maintain and if I did have more money for amendments it would have been even more prolific.  Each year the soil will get better and better with techniques I have learned over the years from organic gardening and permaculture.  I am still learning.

A garden is not just a hobby.  It is one of the most fundamentally important things we ought to be doing.  To provide really fresh, nutritious food without chemicals and without the oil needed to produce, package, and ship our food from across the world is imperative to the health of our beautiful earth, and in a time of epidemic chronic disease, imperative for our own health too.

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Miraculous Abundance; One Quarter Acre, Two French Farmers, and Enough Food to Feed the World by Perrine and Charles Herve-Gruyer is a lovely guide filled with inspiration and ideas.  By simply focusing our energies on the soil and improving it we then let nature grow all of the food.  We are the helpers, not the geniuses behind food production!

The author states, “If we want to live sustainably on this planet, a growing number of people will have to reconnect with the land and produce food for themselves and the community….But the farmers of tomorrow will not come from the agricultural class that has been reduced to near extinction; they will come from the cities, offices, shops, factories, and more….Their farms will be places of healing, of beauty, and of harmony.”  The farms will be in front yards, in the country, on balconies; we will have to find a way to feed all of us because the current food model is killing us and killing the earth.  Period.

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Our yard in the city is the equivalent of four city lots, or just under a third of an acre.  We have utilized very little of it this year and are still producing all of our own produce for our week’s meals plus some for canning.  I have purchased the rest of the vegetables for putting up from local farmers, thereby boosting my local economy and putting food up for our winter meals.  I have chickens for eggs in the city and just purchased a goat share so that I can get plenty of fresh milk to drink and make cheese and other dairy products.  I trade classes or spend my grocery money on fresh meat from my friends that are ranchers.  Now I just need to get staples.  I save money, eat better, and support my local friends and farmers.  This is the model that we may all have to follow sooner or later.  Unsustainable systems are doomed to fail, and Honey, if you look at our food and medical systems….better plant some comfrey and Oregon grape root while you’re at it.

But we can do this!  We can support each other and help each other with knowledge and tool sharing, with friendship and bartering.  What can you plant next year?

 

Preserving Chilies and Herbs for Winter

ristraThe winds caught everything in its grasp in unusual tyrannical fits this last spring.  It lifted trees and roofs in some places.  At our house, some branches came down and the ristras decorating my porch went flying.  Their seeds settled in the gardens and have been growing better than the ones I started myself from seed.  Mother Nature does have quite a sense of humor.  Turns out she loves New Mexican red chili as much as I do and thought it a kind gesture to grow some for me.  What a treat!  What a pleasant discovery.

20170903_080059I could eat them now as spicy chili rellenos or let them turn a brilliant red and dry them.  Then I can have my own delicious chili all winter long.

Garlic, chilies, or other vegetables have been traditionally knotted together to dry and therefore preserve for winter.  They can be hung out of mice’s reach and will stay good all year.  They are also a lovely welcome sign.

Most directions say to use slip knots to attach each individual piece. I do wonder if a sewing needle and yarn might hold it all together as well.

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It is also time to start drying herbs for winter.  I am loving the climate of our new home in Pueblo.  I have had the most beautiful display of herbs in my gardens.  The sage is lush, oregano spreads its arms along the ground, the basil is fragrant, and everything grows well here.

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To Preserve Herbs:

Place picked leaves of sage or basil or oregano or parsley or whatever you have into individual lunch bags with a few holes punched in it.  Label bag with contents and date.  In three weeks crumble herbs and transfer to canning jar or ziplock bag for winter cooking.  Simple as that!

Such a bountiful time of year for fresh eating and grateful preserving.  Everything is so colorful, the mornings are cooler, and here on our homestead we sit happily among the multitudes of plants, watching the chickens roam, eating alfresco, and enjoying these lovely days.

Farming by the Moon and Canning Jar Cloches

It is both exciting and daunting to be farming in a slightly different climate.  We went up one zone and added at least a month to our growing season.  I am attempting Brussels sprouts, artichokes, and sweet potatoes with my new found month.  It is quite hot here in the summer though so this is really all a big learning curve.  As soon as I thought I was pretty dang good at gardening, the new landscape will again be a firm teacher.

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I have been farming according to the Farmer’s Almanac and have been very intrigued by my findings.  As the moon is waxing the above ground crops are put in.  Promptly following the recommended days of planting were three days of rain.  As the moon was waning we planted our potatoes dutifully on the days specified and it was followed by rain.  The statistics and patterns of the earth’s cycles recorded for so very long make it pretty accurate to tell the weather and the best time to plant.  It is a nice way to up our odds in the garden.

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I started seeds in the special little plugs but ran out of money to get one size bigger and the plants were suffocating in their cramped quarters.  When I was speaking at the Sustainability Fair a few weeks ago a woman mentioned that she puts her tomato and pepper plants under canning jars for two weeks and that they do amazing.  “They don’t burn up?” I asked.  She was surprised herself.  She first put the seedlings under the canning jar cloches and forgot them.  When she came back from vacation two weeks later expecting the worst, they were blooming frantically and joyfully under their inexpensive greenhouses.  So, here I am with Brussels and artichokes and a bit early yet to actually put them out but this is all a lovely experiment anyways with these vegetables so let us try it.  Under the free cloches they went and I shall keep you posted on the findings!

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Pick Your Patience (a lesson in seeds)

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According to the Farmer’s Almanac, yesterday and today are the opportune moments to plant root crops.  My potatoes aren’t here yet, but plenty of seed packets awaited.  Carrots, parsnips, radishes, beets, onions, and cloves of garlic were pressed gently into a half inch ravine of roughed up soil and soft, organic garden soil covered the precious seeds.

The most beautiful invention in all the world might be pelleted seeds.  My, how lovely, how easy, to finger each clay pellet holding a single seed and place them precisely one and a half inches apart (give or take a millimeter).

But some of the seeds don’t have such a luxury.  Tiny fragments of what will become food threaten to fall out of my hand in great clumps due to my impatience.  I have found that later in the season I will never thin plants.  I start looking at the great plants all together and wonder in which direction do I start?  Which plants are doomed?  How long will this take me?  And I leave them, only to harvest micro thin carrots and nonexistent beets come fall.  So, I must pick my patience.  This year, I chose to have the eternally sought over virtue during planting.  I listened to a lecture on my headphones and carefully knelt over the ravines.  One seed.  One-ish inch.  One seed.  All the way down the rows.  And, oh how I rejoiced in this!  I am one step closer to inner peace and I will not have to thin plants this year.  Placing the seeds one by one in their distinct rows and spacing was not as hard as it seemed.

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The yard has been separated into Italy, China, England, Ireland, and the Americas.  Ireland is in rainbows with enough room for a mower.  It’s all shaping up rather beautifully.  This climate!  However did this enchanted city escape my search when looking for the perfect place to live and farm?

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