Thursday, May 29, 2014

May flowers

May is definitely the busiest time of the year here in our garden, but the hard work seems to be paying off. We have plenty of beautiful flowers growing!



Another ranunculus. These are definitely our favorite kind of flower...and our camera sadly does not do their beauty justice. We love how they open and close with the sun.

The decision to plant so many flowers has all occurred on Yulia's initiative, but I now see why one would want them in a garden. They really do make the place look wonderful. I've even caught myself doting on them while giving them water in the evenings. If you're the kind of person that wants practical reasons for everything (I feel that way sometimes) then remember that geraniums repel mosquitoes, you can make tea out of hibiscus petals, and that nasturtiums are edible and are good as companions to tomatoes.

We've also been getting a harvest from our garden.There are plenty of greens and radishes coming in right now, and we are able to have a salad everyday. We've been eating different varieties of lettuce, spinach, kale, mustard, arugula, green onions, cilantro, and parsley. Greens are a must for us, so having such abundance right now is very welcome.

Some other edibles that we will soon be harvesting include fava beans, peas, strawberries, and cherries.

The bees really seem to enjoy the fava bean flowers

We started transplanting tomatoes several weeks ago, but we're still planting them. There are that many.

We put ten different varieties in this most recent bed. I can't remember all of them, but some of them include Ukrainian Pear, Japanese black, Japanese purple, Cherokee purple, White Wonder, Reise, and Zapotec.

We write down everything we plant in a robot dog notebook. Here it is among scattered seed packets:

But great beauty is created naturally too and is written in the landscape all around us--no robot dog notebook necessary. Just outside our village is Mother Nature's garden and her pet: roadside poppies and a stork.


Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Planting and growing in our garden

The warm and wet weather of spring has lit a fire under Yuila and me. These past few weeks have by far been the busiest since we moved here last July. Our seeds and seedlings want our attention now, and, no, they will not wait for Yulia and me to get time to get around to planting them. They need to be in the ground when they need to be in the ground. Nature does not compromise.

As it turns out, that is OK with us. Yulia and I love working in our garden! It's no burden to us. Painting the walls, doing the ceiling, and making window frames in our living room can wait.

The warm, wet weather is good for our edibles and decoratives, but it also means that all sorts of plants are growing. The lawn in front of our house, for example, needs to be mowed.

We have a lawn mower, but it's broken. Luckily, we also have a scythe. The scythe also needed a fix, but our neighbor was gracious enough to do it for us. He used a vice to bend the blade to the right angle and hammered out the waves that it had developed. He then taught me how to sharpen and swing it, and it was done and ready to go.

The properly functioning scythe actually substitutes wonderfully for a lawn mower. The grass can be cut so that it is short and even. It makes me think that lawn mowers are actually poor substitutes for scythes. Our scythe is simple. It is made out of wood and metal. It took about fifteen minutes to fix up. Our lawn mower, on the other hand, is made out of metal and plastic. It has many more moving parts that are harder to fix than the scythe. Right now the electric cord needs to be replaced, and one of the blades is missing. Plastic is also harder to reuse or throw away when the mower's life is over.

Our neighbor has a good attitude about the old technology. You don't have to breathe fumes while using a scythe, he says. They're also not as loud as lawn mowers.

We may eventually turn to a lawn mower or weed whacker for one reason or another, but, for now, our scythe will do. The novelty of having something so old is quite alluring as well. Yuila's dad says the blade is from Austrian times--that means pre-World War One! I suppose it could also be modern, but from a German speaking country. It says "Garantie" across its side. I did a quick internet search, but found no information about the maker. I'm very curious if it's actually a hundred years old. If it is, I can only imagine the stories it has to tell!

On the food side of things we have been planting a lot. We're in the middle of planting our corn. We planted two varieties of sweet corn and still have to plant Cherokee White Eagle, Wade's Giant Indian Flint, and Dakota Black Popcorn. They're all from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. Last winter, when we were in California, we stocked up on Baker Creek Seeds at the Petaluma Seed Bank.

Yulia was as happy as a pig in mud with her pale full of seeds
The Petaluma Seed Bank is a seed library located in an actual former bank. It is quite the appropriate setting for the plethora of seeds. The place is a treasure trove for seed lovers.

We like Baker Creek Seeds not only because they sell rare heirloom seeds, but because of their creativity as well. You'd think that after working outside from sunrise to sunset on Saturday, I'd be sick of looking and thinking about plants? I would have thought so. I actually sat at the computer that night and watched some of their videos on the internet. Our favorite is their watermelon video. It was filmed at their farm in Missouri and features fiddle music in the background. Very appropriate!

For us, growing food is not only about calculation and logic, but it is very soulful as well. That is why we like Baker Creek's approach. We respect and learn about the science side of things, but we also think of gardening in terms of aesthetics and get much pleasure from it. For example, we hope that the trellises for the squash and tomatoes will not only keep the plants' leaves dry and reduce the amount of space the vines occupy, but that they will be objects of beauty in our garden.

We hope these pyramids will help shelter the nearby paw paws from wind and shade them when it is sunny. The pot in the ground under the one trellis is for watering. We will fill the pot, and it will give water directly to the squash and tomatoes around it. Both do not like wet leaves. Hopefully they'll like this.

For now, most things are small, but we even see beauty in their potential!

We garden the "no till" way. Here you can see the process as we are making new beds. We first cut the grass, then make a frame, lay a weed barrier (like cloth or cardboard), and add new soil. Next spring we hope to add our own compost instead of soil.

Fava beans (the larger rectangle) with spinach and lettuce. Yulia read last night that lettuce doesn't go well with fava beans (but both are growing well in our garden). By the time the fava gets tall we'll be all done with the greens. This helps us economize on space.

Potatoes under hay mulch. Keeping our fingers crossed that they will sprout soon! The "haystacks" at both ends are actually weed piles. It was tough work reclaiming this field from the two meter tall weeds of last year.