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January Just Once a Year

12 Jan

 Making plans, setting goals, finishing projects, rince and repeat.
The weather has been fairly brutal, high winds howling and icy sleet falling. This morning I was up early to a pretty ice fog and frost calming the breaking day.
Good day for plans, making sourdoughs and fried bananas and a good coffee from Homer Town.
I spent some time in the hightunnel pruning the apple trees and the over large shrub roses. We had hauled about 11 yards of composted horse manure from our neighbors, it’s frozen but still; there it is in it’s good black richness, waiting.
imageWe have the opportunity to get ground fish waste from the cannery soon, we contemplate pouring it over the horse manure- since everything else is frozen, and just what that would mean? Might be a good idea to have a plan to cover the whole mess, with kelp? with saw dust? Might be a GREAT time to go on vacation too. 🙂
Back to my flower list, whether to add/replace more peonies and a few more small hightunnels. I’m pretty sure I could use more cherry trees!image

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modernfarmer magazine interview

2 Jan

http://modernfarmer.com/2014/09/alaska-flower-farming/

I didn’t fall off the Earth but damn near…

1 Jan

So all those good intentions to update this blog more con-sist-tant-ly came to not. So much transpired through the summer, I’ll try to tackle it in little shots. Just like you tackle a good bottle of tequila.

The replacement hightunnel cover we ordered came promptly and we wasted no time in getting that thing put up. Sola Wrap comes in 4 foot widths, just right for 4 foot rafters, that you attach channel guides to slide the Sola Wrap panels along– up and over the hightunnel. We hired a good friend to help us with his crew and equipment. It went up easily after we figured out the little nuances….. and put 2 agile not-afraid-of-heights youngsters up in the rafters to guide the process.
In just 4 days the buds on the apple and cherry trees started to swell, leaves reached out to the heat and sun and BOOM, bees showed up to pollenate away. I opened the door during the days to let all comers breeze thru then closed it at night. The BEST thing I learned from this is—— that by having the roof off snow came in (good) heat didn’t accumulate (good)
kept the trees from breaking dormancy too early (really good) so when the bees arrived the trees were blooming and ready! In the past the trees bloomed before the snow melted off outside so I struggled to act as the pollinator, with my trusty crane feather– not so successful. We had a glorious crop of sour cherries and apples filled our trees. They are young trees (3 yr.?), some came into production and some didn’t. The dwarf varieties didn’t produce. I added 3 plum trees this summer, 2 varieties. I’d name them right now if I had rapid recall, but alas, I need to dig that info out.
It is an indescribable wonder and joy to me to see my own fruit trees bloom and produce actual fruit. I know there are many people and places where this phenomena is common place but not for me , only ever in my fantasies. Only in the photographs of places far away and magically warm and golden with sunlight, where only beautifully coiffed persons ate BBQ daintily at their white table-clothed picnic tables in the patioed backyard.
Even their orchard trees spoke three languages; (Latin, English and of course it must be French. (Espalier! Mon Dieu!) Only in those places, where ever that was. In my world, Rugosa roses didn’t survive winters, annual flower buds froze before they bloomed, don’t even think about sunflowers! But to be fair and accurate, we lived in an abundance of wild berries and flowers– that were not represented in any gardening magazine I recall.
Now, this day is the first day of 2015, an appropriate time to recognize the
amazing evolution, indeed- gestation, of my life, of this land around me and of this world around this land around me. Oh! The places we’ve been! And Oh! The places we’ll go! My job is just to make sure I keep this space as healthy and thriving as I possibly can so it can carry on into it’s future when my time ends here. That is really, the job of every living soul here….

Sunburn and Rain

3 Jul

July brought the rain.

It’s 47 degrees outside and feeling normal at last. But what’s normal anymore. Normal. The older I get, the the hazier that description becomes.
We experienced record warm spring temperatures that followed a winter that felt encasing in it’s grip of ice and cold.   I started to long for a day or 2 of mist and rain, the kind that smells like green moss and ferns.    I was getting worried about the peonies that were shooting up and forming buds faster than the sun burn was reddening on my forehead.  I needed to get to the feeding portion of this adventure quick but weeding was sucking up all my time.

Finally, I have my compost tea extravagance soaking into the soil and I feel alittle more on top of it and alittle less withered.  It’s taken a few days to dampen the soil enough for it to accept the liquid and not let it roll off it’s shoulder- spurned.

I had watched a magnificent storm front build and crash over the Kenai mountains late one night in June.  The sight of it made me stop and want to breathe it in.  The front swept up into the sky over the mountains in a lavender, pink, orange and mauve wave with layers of grey and blue clouds skirting the edges.  The bay below was deep teal color like tie-dye silk.   All day had been hot, dry and windy– it pulled the moisture out of everything.  Now there was the reason.              It was the kind of sight that makes you understand how a symphony might be born into the mind of a great composer.  And you know something grander than anything you can comprehend is happening somewhere.JUNE 2013  CRPF ready for summer 163

I felt the static in the air. I finished mowing, then the tilling, put the equipment away, closed the shop doors, the greenhouse and high tunnel- locked all the gates, all the while watching that impressive sky.  I could see the wind line advance from the glacier front to cross the bay toward me.

By midnight I was closing the windows as a few drops of rain sprinkled the glass.

I felt a vast and complete connection to being alive, being here in this place.

I ate, washed and dropped into a depth of teal colored space as soon as I hit the bed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Peonies, full of promise

23 Jun
High tunnel peonies, a glimpse of summer!

High tunnel peonies, a glimpse of summer!

Holy cow, it’s a scorcher!

13 Jun

Summer arrived this year like it broke out of jail. No casual stroll, no leisurely chit-chat; summer pounced. The last thinning snow piles withered under the ray-gun eye of the sun. I don’t remember ever having a spring/summer arrive with such purpose before. We’ve had weeks now of dry clear skies, it’s just not done in these parts. The girls I hired to help here at the farm are from Missouri and Michigan, both giggle at my proclamations of the day being “a scorcher!”.    They mimic me and fain heat stroke.    Ok, so it’s 70, but to me it feels like 90, I swear!  I even have a sun burn to prove it.
Today I look out at a white frothy foamed in Bay. I see the snow swiped peaks across the bay but the water is beneath all that white. Poor souls down there. To be robbed of even one of these glorious days is criminal.
Especially after the past few years of desperate anemic summer temperatures.
I’m off to pot up some lovely ladies to sell at the Homer Farmer’s Market. What an amazing vibrant community event our Farmer’s Market is; no community should be without one of their own. I’ll try to remember to bring my camera to capture the festival feeling, the friends and neighbors and fabulous produce!   My biggest challenge will be capturing the taste of the fresh baked pastries on film, it may take several tries.

How can a Month be both the shortest and the longest at the same time?

16 Apr

I keep the bird feeder full, it keeps me sane-r. The 2 feet of hard, sharp unchanging snow needs to have those feathered citizens- looking so busy- to give the world some movement and vitality. This is a taxing month. On the one hand I pine, long, crave the wet green of spring proper; on the other it is bearing down from the distance, like the distant sound of thunder whose clouds you can’t see. Spring that I long for also means a frentic pace that has me weeping by evening, tallying the jobs yet undone. What can I do to prepare for the manic days ahead, to make space in the pace- so to speak? I hate being so busy, that terrible pushed feeling. For years now I’ve felt an invisible hand on my back, pushing onward, even as I stumble. I didn’t even stop to ponder the feeling, I just kept my little legs spinning. Then- Bam! One exhausted day I thought, What the hell is this? I don’t want to live like this- I don’t need to. My job is done. No one is going to go hungry, no one will sleep out in the cold, no one will be traumatized or disappointed. Those days are past now. What a thought! The kids are grown and happy- successful enough for me to borrow money from them. Things are good. Husband has a job he loves, good…. And he’s workaholic enough for both of us. See the therapy I can give myself? I’m a pretty self contained unit. 🙂 Nessecary self-support network.
Now just breathe.
It looks like a scene from the movie “The Birds” out there, you’d think this was the only grocery store in 100 miles. Makin’ hay while the sun shines, huh guys? Well it’s not a bad idea my little friends. The way I’m chucking responsibilities around here, you never know if the bird feeder is next! (You’re on your own guys! Buck up! It’ll be good for ya, build character and all that.) I’m off to pick violets.
In my mind.

Oh, my heart longs for the gentle warmth of spring sun.

15 Apr
wishing for spring

wishing for spring

“Hug a Horsetail”( i.e. give that noxious weed some love)

23 Mar

This is an article I wrote for the Alaska Peony Growers Association

“Hug a Horsetail”( i.e.  give that noxious weed some love)

  It’s February now and there’s an array of seed catalogs fanned out around me; on one side is peony wholesale types and on the other is the garden/herb/perennial variety.   This is better than shopping for shoes!  And so much better than watching ice sickles drip.

  In the back of one catalog, I found Horsetail Butter for sale- more of a body butter than a bread butter.  Last year I came across Horsetail Tea (equisetum arvense) as well, even though it was $6.50 for a box of 50 bags-I purchased it to remind myself of all the untapped possibilities growing at my feet.  Horsetail is that plant we all love to hate.  It is so tenacious, every year I feel like
I simply go through the exercise of pulling out the same equisetum I pulled out the year before; like Ground Hog’s Day–over and over.  Since it is the sole survivor of a line of plants that go back 400 million years ( Equisetaceae family) I can understand how impossible it is to eject from the soil.

  In an effort to change the way I relate to this plant, I started a little research.  I already knew horsetail contains 35% silica and makes a great pot scrubber when we’re camping but I just learned it can be used to sand wood as well!  I’ve seen the extract added to hair care products but didn’t really think about why. Silica, which helps form the collagen in skin and bones, also helps to strengthen hair and encourages hair to grow. The plant contains significant levels of the minerals potassium, manganese and selenium, as well. Active compounds known as saponins and flavonoids also are abundant in horsetail.   This helps rebuild and regenerate damaged tissues of the skin and improves cuticles and nails.  Well, there’s a farmer’s friend right there!  If reading this gives you the hankering to mow-down on this herb–be aware that it may cause levels of vitamin B1 (thiamin) to drop in the body. Taking a multi-B supplement is advisable.   I found the University of Maryland Medical Center has done research on the benefits of horsetail as well as Utah State University.

  Silica is found in every tissue and organ in the body, skin, hair, teeth, bones, tendons and ligaments.  It builds and strengthens cell walls and studies show equisetum  may help osteoporosis.  What it does for human cells it does for plant cells, helping plants resist pathogens, resist cold damage and recover from wind damage. I found that the European farmer commonly uses horsetail extract as an effective fungicide. The plant contains trace amounts of nicotine. They use it most specifically for ‘black-spot’ on rose crops and rust on mint fields and mildew on strawberries. 

  When you see that patch of horsetail reaching toward the sun, envision those plants capable of accumulating gold, cadmium, copper, lead and zinc from the soil, effectively cleaning and balancing the soil.  It is your friend.  You may not get a warm fuzzy feeling watching the new crop of horsetail elbow its way into your rows this spring, but I hope you can see it for it’s potential as an asset to you as well as the place it holds in the natural world.

  HORSETAIL TEA or EXTRACT
 
for tea:
Collect the horsetail, foliage, stems, rhizomes and all, and for each 28g (1 oz) pour on 1.1 Litres (2pt) hot, not boiling, water, and allow to stand for twenty-four hours. Strain off the ‘tea’ and use undiluted.  

for extract:
Horsetail fungicide concentrate for spray;
  In a glass or stainless steel pot mix 1/8 cup of dried horsetail leaves/stems/roots- chopped- to 1 gallon of rain water or unchlorinated water.  You can let chlorinated tap water sit for 2 days in an open container to allow the chlorine to escape.
  Simmer for a minimum of one half hour. Cool, strain through cheese cloth.  This extract will keep for a month in your glass jar; be sure to label it.

  Dilute the extract 5 to 10 parts water  to 1 part concentrate.    Spray infected plants 1 to 2 times a week or use as a preventative once a week to every other week and especially when weather conditions could cause stress to the plants.
 
(PS– be sure to add the limp equisetum leftovers to your compost pile! — yum yum)

Image

Peony and Roses

22 Mar

Peony and Roses