For the holidays 2011, I decided to finally move the blog over to its own domain: www.larrapin.us. Please visit and bookmark! Better yet, please re-subscribe so that you’ll get the posts by email. I hope you will re-subscribe because there will be exciting new soon about the 2012 Dig In! Food and Farming Festival here in Fayetteville. Plus, we’re going to be building a new banty-tractor and a hoophouse here over the winter! To get the new email subscription: It’s a two step process, first click the link above. Then enter your email and the letters shown and click the “subscribe” button. Step two is to check your email box and click that long “confirm” link that you really want to the get post in one neat weekly email. Then you’re in! Welcome back! And visit the new blog at www.larrapin.us.Read More
Look at the size of this guy and what an amazing pattern. He was happily munching on a privet bush. So we let him keep on munching…
—A Larrapin Garden www.larrapin.us
Posts most wednesdays & weekends. Don’t miss any—you can subscribe by Email here. You can also get bonus links and recipes by “liking” our Facebook fan page atwww.facebook.com/larrapin.garden. We’re even on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LarrapinGarden.
There are summers so hot they take a petal or two off your life span. This summer was one of those for me. Two months of unrelenting hundred-plus degree days included a few that read 109 in my backyard which set a new personal record on the highest number I’ve ever actually seen on a thermometer in the shade.
To spend a couple of weeks watching my local temps go consistently higher than Tuscon, Arizona was a sobering reminder that you can do many things right and good in your garden and still get your butt kicked to the ground by a burning sun, skies that refuse to rain, and a tide of bugs who were loving it. Battalions of grasshoppers I’m saying. Even with a most excellent drip-irrigation system, I discovered that beyond a certain temp, even heat loving vegetables will just hunker down and do absolutely nothing beyond staying alive. Of course any farmer would of have told me that you’ll have years like this…
So to be writing this in cool, lovely, perfect October days seems to risk breaking the wall of forgetfulness I’d like to maintain around ‘heat dome 2011.’ The same wall that had me not-posting, not-planting, not-cultivating and therefore not feeling very much myself. It was a poem my friend Ann read that seemed to break the oppressive spell that had lingered in my garden-mind even after the weather finally broke. Here are a few lines:
“I went to sleep in the summer
I dreamed of rain
in the morning the fields were wet
and it was autumn.”
—from “September” by Linda Pastan
And that’s how it felt. I kind of woke up in late September and wandered out to the garden to see what could happen for fall. Put in a few seeds I’d collected (aha! There were good things that happened over the summer after all…more on those in upcoming posts.) from my favorite ‘Larrapin Kale’ and Monstrueux de Viroflay spinach and they popped up quick.
Once I saw those little seedlings, something woke up again and I began to notice things again like the humming sound of bees adoring the basil that is flowering and setting seed.
And there I was awake again, finally! I knew because for the first time in what seemed like many many weeks, I began to find beauty all over the place. Here’s to yet another season, yet another chance to begin again. I love that about gardening.Read More
No plastic buckets!! That’s my personal version of the infamous “No wire hangers!” Luckily, my verision is usually silent, to myself at the store, standing among the tempting rows buckets in pretty candy colors. On a farm, a plastic bucket, or plastic anything, is often just trash waiting to happen.
I hated plastic buckets long before my friends Diana & Elizabeth brought my attention to oxidation. Now, like a bad pop song, oxidation— in this case the weakening of plastic by sunlight—is stuck in my head. Don’t let the cowboy hat fool you, Diana takes care of her garden tools like a classic English gardener of yore. There is a paintbrush for specifically for brushing away grass from the mower deck as she demonstrates in the photo below. Oil and sandpaper make wooden tool handles glow. Things are hung in their place. She’s a shero of mine for this.
Tool maintenance was one of my garden resolutions this year. Thanks to Diana’s influence, and Mendy’s friendly reminders, I don’t blatantly leave my tools out in the rain all season anymore. Keeping tools dry has been an easy resolution since there’s been no rain to speak of during our two and half month bone-dry dustbowl. That was preceded by flooding during which it was too wet to dig anything and the tools were idled (but dry) in the shed. (Don’t get me started on the weather…)
Last time I visited Diana & Elizabeth’s garden, Elizabeth drew my attention to putting plastic things out of the sun because the oxidation weakens the plastic. The next thing that happens is they end up in the trash bin faster than ever because let’s just say you cannot recycle most of this stuff.
So now I’m also obsessed with oxidation and the plastic I still have is often sitting out in the sun somewhere. Previously, I just hated plastic buckets because they bust at the first sign of ice and crack when it gets any age on it. By age I mean about twenty minutes it seems. No new plastic!
There are exceptions, of course. Like my wonderful heated chicken bucket for winter, which I bought not knowing then the heaters are available for metal buckets too. There are also the darned handy 5-gallon buckets from your friend the painter or dry-waller. Recycled and near-indestructible—barring dinner guests backing over them in their car—those still have a part to play on most every farm… (If you have goats, remove the handles or they will get them stuck on their heads. Take it from me that is far more distressing than comical!)
Oh, and my beloved tree-watering plastic storage bins….I haven’t figured out a reasonable replacement for those yet and they’ve been the key to survival of every fruit tree at Larrapin this year….
As for farm buckets, make mine metal. Next time I buy a watering can, it’s going to be the old fashioned metal kind. Metal farm buckets look nice and blend into the farm landscape without any glaring plastic colors or without looking like you left your mop bucket out in the yard. No worries with oxidation or lack of recycling of plastic. They last years and years (even with the occational ice) without rust or holes and when they do get them, no problem—you have a lovely vintage planter you made yourself instead of having to buy it at that antique store!
And finally, if it’s beyond all use, you can always recycle metal! And while the upfront cost is much more, I can’t help but think it’s pays for itself quickly with long functional use and a use even after it’s not functional to hold water…So I’ll keep saying to mayself when faced with alluring colors: no new plastic buckets!
—A Larrapin Garden www.larrapin.us
Posts most wednesdays & weekends. Don’t miss any—you can subscribe by Email here. You can also get bonus links and recipes by “liking” our Facebook fan page atwww.facebook.com/larrapin.garden. We’re even on Twitter athttp://twitter.com/LarrapinGarden.
There are many things going well at Larrapin Garden. Keeping up-to-date with blog posting is not on that list! But I thought I’d do a series of posts on things that are working well —as well as as things that aren’t—and what I’d like to do better or different next time.
We could start with the weather. After an entire summer’s worth of rain in one week in late spring that nearly washed away a lot of the state, we’ve hardly seen a drop since the first of June until we were gifted with a lovely forty minute rain day before yesterday. Who cares that the wind blew just hard enough to blow over the corn and beat down the cowpeas, it was rain. Those bone dry fifty days in-between were what was tough, especially with the knowledge that it covered the month and half *before* the month and a half of late-July and August that are more traditionally bone-dry and hot as hell here. And nobody, including myself, seems to think it just ‘came early’….no, more like we may be in for what feels like a hundred dog days of August.
And while I obviously can’t change what the weather is going to do, it did become clear to me that I can be more prepared next time with more mulch, more land forms that hold rainwater so it can sink deep, and soil with a higher organic matter content. All of those things can make a huge difference in how your land holds rain.
This is one of the things I love about learning the principles of permaculture—how the goal is to build a system, a human-made landscape, with a similar intelligence, diversity and resilience as a nature-designed landscape. Nature designs landscapes that are self-sustaining and tend to grow in abundance with time…all without additional inputs or help. Now *that’s* a garden design! And this is for another post! Back on topic:
So what are some things going well at Larrapin? For one, garden art. Now let me say I have a low-bar definition of garden art: stuff I build that makes me feel happy somehow to look at it! (Fine artists are cringing about now, but I know even you guys know what I mean!) This year one of my garden resolutions was to make more garden art and to my surprise, it was a resolution I actually kept. So in the pic above, a wonderful metal stepping stone is instead placed on an overturned pot by a giant rosemary plant. It’s nobody’s picasso, but I love looking at the beautiful disk floating there in a fragrant mound of herb…all providing some company for a young Arkansas Black apple tree.
Meanwhile, down on the bottom edge of the veggie garden, a piece of would-be firewood got interesting with a dash of blue glass and a stack of rocks. Like I said, it doesn’t take much to entertain me.
The garden, meanwhile, creates the finest of art every day in the form of beautiful flowers dancing with bees, vines covered with tomatoes, making soil become darker, deeper and more alive. But in case I miss it, sometimes the garden sends little messages that all the love and attention I give her is noticed, and the feeling is mutual. These often arrive in the form of heart-shaped rocks. The latest valentine however, was with the red potato harvest:
What kind of art are you finding in your garden?
—A Larrapin Garden www.larrapin.us
Posts most wednesdays & weekends; exceptions, sometimes long ones, or like today’s post on a amonday, do occur. Don’t miss any—you can subscribe by Email here. You can also get bonus links and recipes by “liking” our Facebook fan page atwww.facebook.com/larrapin.garden. We’re even on Twitter athttp://twitter.com/LarrapinGarden. Thanks for stopping by!