Edible Landscape • Wildlife Habitat • Backyard Chickens & Bees • Local Food
Lichens abound in the wet forests here in Western North Carolina with their amazing silver-grey-green colors on the tree limbs. Today I’m adding “Usnea” to my Land Life List. Usnea is the one on the left in the photo. The Land Life List is the idea of learning the names of everything I can see on the 5 acres that makes up the new homestead. Obviously this is a life-long project!
As for the other lichen in the photo- there are so many many kinds of lichens and this is going to take a while to figure out the names! Please chime in if you know the name. The two in the photo fell out of an old maple tree after a strong windy day.
Usnea is also known as Old Man’s Beard, Woman’s Long Hair, Beard Lichen and a few others according to wiki. Turns out it is used as a medicinal, primarily for immune response and infections per herbalist Jessica Godino in this article on Susan Weed’s site. Wiki mentions it has been used in this way for over 1600 years. Usnea, great to meet you!
Other lichens are being investigated as possible help for diseases involving prions (think mad cow and other neurodegenerative diseases). Just another reason to protect intact and old-growth forests, hello. Don’t get me started…
If you just can get enough of the incredible color and forms of lichens here is a set of lovely photos too.
Thanks for stopping by to check out the beginnings of the Land Life List here at Five Apple Farm! I encourage you to start a list at your own land, or backyard or city block!
—A Larrapin Garden…recently re-settled in the Blue Ridge of North Carolina. Posts on this blog may be boom or bust depending on the season, but if you subscribe here you’ll get one weekly email—usually on Wednesdays—to let you know what’s new. You are also invited to get garden related miscellany at the Facebook page or on Twitter. The Pinterest boards (Pinterest should carry a habit-forming warning label by the way) are here.
From “Cultivating the Wild Suburbia”by Ellen Honeycutt:
Contrary to what you might think, suburbia is a place where we can create habitat. That is my goal in our yard. I create habitat by making conscious decisions such as: plant a diverse mix of regionally native plants; minimize the use of chemicals; create places of habitat by leaving some dead trees, some bare ground, some brush piles; research what I plant to have bloom times throughout the year for pollinator support. [photo via site]
The wiser part of me knows that it is good that I arrived at Five Apple too late in the season to do much growing. This might be the only thing that will get me to observe first, then dig.
Since we arrived in mid-Autumn—besides having wonderful fall colors on the land —I did have a great opportunity to observe the sunlight/shade patterns on potential garden areas— which will be very similar to the Spring pattern as the sun will be passing through the same angles, just moving the opposite direction. This is handy since the plants that like cooler temps are often grown in both spring and fall.
Good thing I had this chance because what I saw influenced a total future-garden relocation. The nice flat spot down by the creek (shown above when everything was still green in September) I’d initially chosen for the main veggie garden was ruled out when I saw how little sunlight it turned out to get due to trees being uphill on both the east and west sides of an otherwise south-facing spot! While I may grow something there as the soil is lovely, it won’t be main crop veggies which really need a solid eight hours of full sun at minimum.
I often read a veggie plot needs a minimum of “6-8″ hours but lets just say your tomatoes and other hot-weather lovers are not going to bear very well on 6 hours sun if at all. That goes double in this cooler, wetter climate where I’ll be lucky to find a sunny enough, dry enough spot to get good tomatoes anyway! Knowing though, that you can get cherry tomatoes at least on the lesser amount of light, I still plan to fill the freezer with sauce for the winter. If it’s cherry tomato by cherry tomato, so be it!
Even with nearly five acres to work with, it was surprisingly hard to find the best spot for the main garden and the future greenhouse. The land is complicated – it faces south but is more or less on an eastern slope. Most of the land is forested. There’s a wooded rise to the east and the west of the open ground. The eastern rise isn’t that high but the trees on top of it are quite tall and cast a dramatic shadow in the morning. There’s a big lovely field in the southeast corner but it’s the farthest from the house which is not good for a garden as you have to make a point to go all the way out to the far-away garden to check on things. Deer know this too. It’s much better, especially for someone as distractible as myself, to have a garden close to the house where I walk by or through on normal daily rounds to check what’s going on. Having the garden right out the door is best of all!
So after observing the light, I decided to relocate the main veggie plot quite a ways uphill from the original spot. The new spot has the most sunlight on the whole place. The soil is not quite as good as the lower spot, but I can build better soil, unlike sunlight! The new spot turns out to be in the backyard, which is north of the house, so I had to back even further up the hill to get out of the spring-winter-fall shadow cast by the house. Luckily it’s a one story rancher, so the shadow isn’t so huge. But the new spot is very nearly right out the door. Yay!
I’m glad I had the time to make this major plan-correction before I’d spent time and work digging a whole garden only to relocate it later when it turned out to be too shady for main summer crops! (I say main summer crops because the lower, shadier area would probably be perfect for most greens and many herbs. I’ve found if there’s enough sun to grow good grass in an area, most leafy crops will do fine there. But when it comes to things like corn, tomatoes, okra, and cowpeas – our summer faves, the more sun the better. Especially since we are in a cool zone at about 3000 feet elevation in the Southern Appalachians.)
But full disclosure, once I picked the new spot and felt good about it I did start soil prep and start cover crops on a few future beds! Couldn’t help myself. As the green trees and fall colors show I didn’t wait very long after all, hopefully just long enough to make the wisest choice.
P.S. For more on analyzing your land – even the smallest city lot – check out this article by Eric Toesenmeier at Mother Earth News: http://goo.gl/G9VWlZ His book is wonderful by the way – highly recommend! Note the little greenhouse set at an angle in the photos. That was the one spot in the entire yard that got enough sunlight for it. That is the beauty of learning the light patterns first before building things…remember this Leigh, remember this!—A Larrapin Garden…recently re-settled in the Blue Ridge of North Carolina. Leigh’s posts on this blog may be boom or bust depending on the season, but if you subscribe here you’ll get one weekly email—usually on Wednesdays—to let you know what’s new. You are also invited to get garden related miscellany at the Facebook page or on Twitter. The Pinterest boards (Pinterest should carry a habit-forming warning label by the way) are here. Would love to hear your comments about what you have learned as you located, or re-located your garden!
Back in early October we were exploring the edge of the creek on the land’s southern boundary. The creek is lined with huge trees along the way and we have tended to look up at their amazing height. This tulip poplar below wins the prize for height for sure – that’s Mendy standing at the base!
On this particular walk however, my eye was drawn to a small understory tree with sweet yellow frills. Witch hazel! I’d never seen witch hazel in real life, only in photos and was totally delighted to find not one but about a half dozen lining the creek and blooming their hearts out in October. I love them all.
This discovery brought to mind an intention I’d set long ago when I lived just over the mountain from here. I’d decided to try to learn the name of every visible living thing on the land. That is a BIG project given this an extremely diverse ecosystems here in the highlands of the Southern Appalachians… My current home at Five Apple Farm is nearly five acres spread across at least as many types of landscape: lawn, field, upper creek, lower creek, hillside, forest (divided into east facing slope and west facing slope) and various shrubby fencerows. Yes, it’s a lifetime project and I’m excited to begin again. Soon I’ll start a page on this blog with a life list of living things spotted here!
So anyway, while looking up info on witch hazel, I stumbled across two wonderful blog posts at a favorite Tennessee blog called “Clay and Limestone.” Gail wrote a great post about this type of witch hazel here: http://goo.gl/mY8qdD Then, as is prone to happen when looking up one thing—found another post by Gail about the type of witch hazel that is fragrant and blooms in very late winter or very early spring, Hamamelis vernalis…which is native to my other homeground, the Ozarks! It took me about two seconds and I added it to my planting wish list. Very early spring is a critical time for pollinators and anything that provides the much needed nectar and pollen then is going to be of interest to me. If you read Gail’s post here http://goo.gl/EZU3Rs you’ll want one too!
—A Larrapin Garden…recently re-settled in the Blue Ridge of North Carolina. Leigh’s posts on this blog may be boom or bust depending on the season, but if you subscribe here you’ll get one weekly email—usually on Wednesdays—to let you know what’s new. You are also invited to get garden related miscellany at the Facebook page or on Twitter. The Pinterest boards (Pinterest should carry a habit-forming warning label by the way) are here. Happy digging!
All spring and summer and early fall of 2013 Larrapin Garden has been without a home. We knew we were going to move for many months so as the time approached I didn’t put in a spring garden, mostly for lack of time but also lack of heart with the weight of leaving another place I loved so much. Eight years before we had made the difficult decision to leave our home in the South Toe Valley of the Black Mountain range of North Carolina due to an intractable neighbor situation. If all our things are going on a truck, we reasoned, wouldn’t it be a good chance to spend time closer to parents in Arkansas? So we rambled off to the Arkansas Ozarks for a life season. It turned out to be one of my favorite life seasons so far.
Home has a way of calling you back though. Even though we were each born in other states, the highest mountains of Southern Appalachia had drawn us both like a magnet. After I spent a summer as a farm intern in the South Toe Valley of the Black Mountain Range I knew I had found home and planned to be in that place forever. Sometimes when you fall in love, you know you are signing on for life. So at first, the sojourn to the Ozarks felt like a disorienting twist in the life I had imagined. Once there however, I discovered the most delightful community of friends and farmers I’d ever known. I learned more about all things garden and farm than ever before working with stony soil of my land and the challenging Ozark climate. There were a couple of severe droughts, a grasshopper plague, a killer heat-dome summer and a negative 18 winter that tested my mettle and proved that Ozarkers have a toughness that I probably don’t! But it built up some resilience I didn’t have before. Summers could be brutal. But how I loved that sunlight every other season! I love the time I spent there with the land and with the people. There is amazing energy in Fayetteville, Arkansas and I found there dear friends I’ll keep for life.
Then life shuffles things around again and the call of home is strong. We finally made the decision to return to the Blue Ridge and look for a home somewhere within four counties in Western North Carolina or maybe even Southwest Virginia. I packed a new roll of prayer flags I’d received as a gift and my seedling-cup maker as talismans to help remind me that at the end of all the dreaded leaving and moving, there would be need for both at some new homeplace and new garden site. The moving was harder even than I remembered and the leaving the hardest of all.
We settled in a funky rent house with a great view for the long search for an affordable little farm. That search was often depressing. There was right house-wrong land. Level or gently sloping land with southern exposure is very hard to find here and considered quite dear. Then there was right land-totally wrong house. And of course a lot of right land + right house but totally wrong price!
Then there’s that moment when you step out of the car with the real estate agent and your breath catches to see it. It took Mendy and I only a few minutes of walking around to realize we’d found what we were looking for: a sturdy brick rancher on five acres of mixed open field and forest, south facing. All good, even before counting the lovely little creek, the old apple orchard, chesnut and walnut trees, and the full-gravy bonus of a tiny old guesthouse for visiting friends and family. Pure joy followed by several grueling weeks of post-housing-crash bank loan process. My filing cabinet has never been thoroughly interrogated and tortured. I had set up a card table to find and sort all the obscure documents the bank requested. But finally, buyers, sellers, bankers and lawyers sat around a table and we signed over and over and over and happily.
We have a home back home. Really back home – the new place is only about a mile as the crow flies from the home we left eight years ago in the South Toe Valley of the Black Mountain Range of these old, old Appalachian mountains. We have named the new homeplace Five Apple Farm in honor of the little orchard as well as my lifelong connection to apple trees. With my tree planting habits there will likely be many more apple trees in the future..but the name feels perfect.
Thank you for stopping by this blog and I hope you’ll visit often and see what happens from the simple start of putting a shovel into the soil of former back lawn and envisioning a garden there — as well as a landscape surrounding it that is larrapin to the birds, butterflies, bees and wildlife and gardeners alike. We’ve been here since mid-October and it’s been a slow start to nesting, but we are starting that process now. Welcome to the new Larrapin Garden, beginning all over again.
One thing you learn about fall gardening is if you are going to have greens like these through the winter, you should have started them in mid-August. If you did, you will thank yourself all winter. Your chickens will thank you too—as this Buckeye back at the old Larrapin Garden did.
Larrapin Garden has been in transition this year as we moved back home to North Carolina. This required getting a rental house and that has not been good for gardening as I am loathe to plant in a place I’ll only be a few months, even though my wiser inside-voice says to plant wherever you are, no matter how long you think you will be there. So here are some used deli containers I’m going to use to start some fall seeds.
I’d like to say I’ve overcome my dislike of rentals, but that would not be true. Instead, we have found and fallen in love with a home and the magical five acres around it in the high mountains above Burnsville, NC. If all the stars align and the fates allow, we hope to close on our new home this coming Friday, the day before my birthday.
Needless to say we’ve been asking everyone we know for good energy, thoughts and prayers that all will go as we hope. As a kind of ‘act of faith’ I’m starting seeds for some fall greens in a garden I hope to begin very soon.
This required getting out the big seed-stash box. Unlike most of my belongings that are still packed, I knew exactly where this box was.
So that’s lettuce on the left and my own “Larrapin Kale” on the right. I’ll use these little trays to start the seeds till they are about a half inch tall, then will pot up into newspaper cups. And if I get really really lucky, later this fall there will be some lovely raised beds in this pretty spot by the stream, the possible, hopeful future home of Larrapin Garden. I’ll keep you posted!
—A Larrapin Garden…on the cusp of new home in the Blue Ridge of North Carolina. Leigh’s posts on this blog may be boom or bust depending on the season, but if you subscribe here you’ll get one weekly email—usually on Wednesdays—to let you know what’s new. You are also invited to get garden related miscellany and recipes at the brand new Facebook page or on Twitter.
Spotted this in the grocery parking lot and even though I figure they are talking about place of residence…I like to think of this applied to eating local and supporting local!
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