Meandering Paths (shunning straight rows)

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I have visions of meandering paths.  Perennials interspersed with annuals.  Gardens in themes.  Soft grass (or mowed weeds) in the path.  Maybe wood chips.  Maybe pea gravel.  I want to walk upon something soft.  My granddaughter never wears shoes, what would she love to walk on?

Hills and secret benches for pondering butterflies.  A pond or two.  Corn growing the way I have read in old American Indian gardening recollections, a large hill, seven kernels around, squash plants growing between mounds.  Beans of course growing up the corn.

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What if we took a world journey through the gardens?  What if you begin your trek by the multiple rose bushes in the English garden and walk past the peas and cucumbers, radishes, lettuce…

Then you turn the bend and suddenly you are in Ireland?  There are swirling mounds of potatoes and kale, parsnips and cabbage.

In Italy the tomatoes would be red and plump near the eggplant and oregano.  The basil and zucchini and artichokes (I’ll try to grow them here.) and garlic tucked amongst.

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In the Asian garden yard long red beans hang over soybeans and pak choi.  Snow peas for stir fry interspersed with Thai basil and green onions.

In the Americas the corn will stand proudly waving with pumpkins at its feet.  The old varieties of beans will slither upwards.  Homage to my southern ancestors with collard greens and sweet potatoes (I’ll try to grow those here too!).

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Flags or little statues and annual flowers join in the fun.  And the medicine plants will fill all spaces, rest assured.  Forty plus varieties of herbs that we use in medicine will add beauty and pollinators to the spaces.

The orchard will be grand, with plum and cherry (cherry bark for medicine), apples, and apricots, willow, and hawthorn, sumac, maple, and bushes of berries.  A meditation pool.  A fire pit.

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A place of enchantment is what I wish to create, not just for sustenance of the body this time, but for sustenance of the soul….

The Overhead Garden Plan

Here is one way to get a broader overview of a new garden plan.  Get a bird’s eye view of your property!  Look up your property on Google Earth and print off map.

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From here I can see where the trees are, the shady areas, the barren areas, the possibilities.  I can see that the space by the garden is shady in the summer so I need to plant things in that area that can handle partial shade.  The spot that I considered for the hoop house is partially shaded too.  Not to mention that the lawn chairs in that area are constantly blowing away.  I can see where new fruit trees would work and where a pond could thrive.

In planning a new garden it is important to analyze and observe the space diligently.

Wind- We can sure get our fair share of wind out here.  But because I placed different reading and eating areas all over I can better see where the wind goes.  Beside the house, under the elm trees, is protected.  The cushions on the chairs haven’t even budged.  This is where we will erect a canopy and build an outdoor, off grid kitchen this year.

Sunlight- The porches are very sunny right now.  They will make great spaces to grow food in pots and five gallon buckets.  When the trees are in their full foliage I should be prepared to move them around to get maximum sun or grow cold crops so that by the time the leaves are out the plants won’t require so much sun.

Space- I can see on the map where the trees expand in the summer and can lead me to plant trees a little further out.

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There are many benefits of downloading and printing the overhead view of your land.  You can see where best to fit a chicken coop, where to put a windbreak, or where to put a pond.  Or where to put a hammock!

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You can use little pictures like these and move them around before drawing in the final idea.  Just one more way to plan a new garden or implement a new idea!

Winter Learning (permaculture and garden dreaming)

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We live very seasonally.  Everything we do has its time of year to be done.  During January, there is little farm work to do.  The bees are busy in their apartment building, the goats and chickens are cared for a couple times a day, and we fill a few orders.  We have one market this entire month.  This is the time of year that we read and learn new things.  We don’t have time to learn anything in the summer and fall.  We are so exceptionally busy from pre-dawn to falling into bed exhausted at nine that we scarcely have time to read a magazine and a shower is considered a break!  So this time of year, books that we wanted to read get consumed.  Movies we wanted to see get rented.  And things we want to learn get to take precedence this month.  This year we are obsessed with Permaculture.

This will serve as a before picture of our fenced garden.

This will serve as a before picture of our fenced garden.

We have a blank slate here, really.  We have a 26×30 square foot fenced garden and ten acres.  We have established trees and areas of un-irrigated prairie and areas around the house that are near the wells.  We have rain water to capture and swales (little ditches that curve around capturing water and watering nearby plants) to create.  We have trees to plant and a food forest to create.  Visions of apple, plum, and pear trees to join the present peach trees.  We have hazelnuts and pecans to try.  Walnuts and berry bushes.  We have herbs to go crazy and work in many functions, tap roots, ground cover, attract beneficial insects, beautify the area, food, and medicine.  We have water features to add, fountains and perhaps a pond.  We have gardens to plant.

Idea garden

Idea garden

Permaculture is like learning a new language for us.  We are very much schooled in organic farming techniques and that is what we have been practicing.  But we are attracted to this Permaculture way.  It is so beautiful out here, and the landscape is so breathtaking that I would be saddened to plow it up to grow rows of corn.  Indeed, I am excited to work with nature, rather than against.  I believe this way will create more food for market as well as for our own larder and every year it will increase.  It will support wildlife and allow an oasis to remain here.

View of fenced garden and bee hive.

View of fenced garden and bee hive.

I have been listening to lectures on http://openpermaculture.com which is a free online permaculture course.  I have checked out a ton of books from the library.  I am listening, and reading, and looking at pictures, and trying to make this stick in my brain. I am trying to rewire.

Outside the back door, site of trees and food forest perhaps?

Outside the back door, site of trees and food forest perhaps?

I was so busy trying to figure out how to create this food forest in the fenced garden.  But, if I plant trees in there, won’t it all be shaded out in a few years?  One of the lectures said to start outside the back door.  The back door?  Goodness, I didn’t even think of that.  Off the deck, near the elms, across the grassy area by the clothes line, near the fence lines, by the bees, I could plant trees.  Trees with fruit bushes around them, and bulbs, and herbs, and perennial vegetables like asparagus and rhubarb, and ground covers and I could create a swirly swale around them all to catch the rain.  The farmer’s almanac predicts that this year will be hot and rainy.  Odd for this area but nothing surprises me anymore after farming the past few years.

Another view outside the back door.  Lots of space for trees and food producing perennials.

Another view outside the back door. Lots of space for trees and food producing perennials.

In the fenced garden we will create keyhole gardens and arbors with climbing food plants, squash, beans, peas, that lead to a water feature and a circular tea garden.  Maybe there will be ducks running through (I do miss my ducks) to keep the grasshoppers in check.

Another idea garden.

Another idea garden.

We have started letting the chickens out to free range.  They were so used to it at our old house that they simply seemed desperate to get out of their enclosure.  With Christopher Robin indeed being a rooster, he has already started sounding alarms when the hawks and owls fly over, keeping the girls rounded up and protected.  They love to be out foraging and will help keep the insects at bay this coming growing season.

Food forest idea garden.

Food forest idea garden.

Shade garden site.

Shade garden site.

Site of outdoor kitchen, completely off grid.

Site of outdoor kitchen, completely off grid.

I have swimming with ideas to beautify this already spectacular place and create more habitats for my beloved wildlife and create permanent food sources for all.  Mushrooms, fruit, vegetables, wild foods, this year is going to be an exciting journey as a farmer.

Possible pond location.

Possible pond location.

Will grow pots of cold crops on the porches.

Will grow pots of cold crops on the porches.

Now, time to peruse the seed catalogues!