My most favoritest shirt from the Handsome in Pink clothing line.
Rose has chosen the Disney book, Cinderella, from the library, the version in which Cinderella “always tries to please her step-sisters,” despite their verbal and psychological abuse. And even though I feel like something is lodged in my throat, something large and chalky, like say, consumer culture selling the notion that to be successful, a girl must be pretty and sweet, I say, “yes, I would be happy to read Cinderella to you, sweetie.”
Afterwards, I close the book and say casually, “so, you know that was fiction, right?”
Rose: Of course.
Me: (as fakely cheery as the band playing while the Titanic slowly sunk) You know, there’s a lot of fictions in that story.
Col: Like what?
Me: Well, you know how Cinderella and the Prince fell in love after dancing together for a few hours? Without even talking to each other?
Me: That doesn’t happen.
Col: Also, pumpkins don’t turn into carriages.
Rose loves pink, also everything sparkly, glittery, glossy, twirly. Most days I watch her shuck ten snazzy costumes (all over the floor of our house), while I’m still in my dirt-spangled clothes from yesterday (okay, 2 days ago if they’re not conspicuously stinky). When Rose asked to get her ears pierced for her 6th birthday, I was totally on board because her body is her artistic palette, to be altered with the paintbrush of clothes and jewelry (I fully expect tattoos someday), and I want her to feel the freedom of artistic license. Thankfully, she’s also a scrappy wild child who pees outside, wipes herself with dandelion blossoms, and gets on with the work of barefoot chicken wrangling.
Cross-dressing is A-OK at our house. Two boys and a girl: can you tell who’s who?
I don’t want to be the buzz-kill mom who puts the kibosh on literary princesses who’s highest aspirations are to snag a man. I want to believe my daughter can sail through the ocean of mainstream media only to dock someday at Port Confidence and Self-Love. I’d like to think Rose can toss the Disney Princess books into her centrifuge of “beliefs about myself” and watch the harmful messages sink like stones to the bottom. But, a 6-year old who is already clued in to mainstream notions of beauty can’t navigate those choppy waters–where women are depicted starvation-thin with hairless, hourglass bodies—and not sink a little.
Pink Rocket Tee from Handsome in Pink clothing line. And barred rock hen.
Rose got a Barbie doll for her birthday from a friend (a Barbie with an apparent overactive hair-growing gland, who literally sheds, adding to the flotsam on our floor, causing Dan to grumble, “Barbie’s got a dandruff issue”). I told the kids, “you know, there’s this funny study about what Barbie would look like if she were real.” We laughed about how in real life Barbie wouldn’t be able to walk upright, house a whole liver (just room for half), or lift anything, including her own head, due to such a long skinny neck. And Rose, vigorously brushing Barbie’s hair (all over the goddamned house), said, “well, it’s just a toy, Mama.”
Well yes, and no. Barbie is just a toy, and Cinderella is just a book, but they’re also million dollar businesses served up to our daughters in sparkly pink packages, these daughters who are still mapping their roles on this planet.
It’s a big machine to disassemble: Disney, the media, the sexualization of girls, “happily ever after,” and the entrenchment of gender roles. Like everything else, my greatest influence is in my own home. I won’t ban Barbies and princesses, but we’ll continue to have some frank conversations around here about what’s truth and what’s fiction.
When I was approached about sponsorship by Oakland entrepreneur Joanna Hadley, who runs Handsome in Pink (with her partner Helena Simon), the clothing line who’s mission is to squash gender stereotypes in kids’ clothing, believing pink can be masculine, blue can be feminine, and everyone should feel empowered by what they wearing, I was like hells yes! (’cause I’m classy and very formal).
Also, I just finished reading this (amazing, life-changing) book, which states that people hear you better if you tell them what you want, not what you don’t want. And I want Col and Rose to know that pink and purple are for anyone, and that someday a girl will be president.
In Joanna and Helena’s words:
Handsome in Pink (HiP) is a groovy Oakland, CA clothing line that started in 2007. Our mission has always been to empower people (babies, kids, & adults) by undressing stereotypes and offering clothes that actually reflect who we are and what we like to do. We believe that colors (such as pink and purple) and active imagery (such as firetrucks, tool belts, and electric guitars) belong to everyone and should be mingling, not dividing up along gender lines.
Handsome in Pink is offering 10% off all clothing to 6512 readers. Go here to check them out.
7:12 am. We’re at the kitchen table, eating breakfast. Rose’s face clouds with panic. “I forgot about the 4 squares of chocolate!” She clanks down her oatmeal spoon, zooms her eyes into their widest setting. “Four squares of chocolate?” I ask, buying time, always buying time. Repeat question back to child, gain 1 more minute to rise to the surface of morning. “Yeh-hess. Every day me and Col get to eat 4 squares of our new chocolate bar. We decided.” Her face is a mask of fierce determination.”Honey, it’s 7:12 am, there’s still some time in the day for chocolate.”
I’m on a park date with Rose. The river runs below this park, beckoning for exploration and contemplative sitting. But there will be no quiet time by the river. No, it’s The Extreme Kindergarten Triathlon: swing, chase, tickle; repeat, repeat, repeat. I’m out of breath from a sincere effort to catch Rose’s slippery self as she careens through-up-down-in-around the toddler-sized equipment, giving new meaning to the phrase “head-banging.”
“Now push me sooooo high on the swings and then grab my feet.”
“Now chase me all around, anything red is base. When you catch me, you tickle me till I fall down.”
“Okay, here’s my baby (hands me a water bottle cradled inside a bike helmet), can you babysit her? I’m going off to write my column. I pumped some milk for her.”
Home. I toss myself onto the couch, sinking into the delicious flavor of non-moving while lustily eyeing up my book on the table. Rose grabs her neon-green jumprope and begins smacking bare feet on tile, fast: hop-pause-hoppity-hop-hop-pause-hoppity-pause-hop. It’s like tribal drums, like army boot camp, like a fierce and sparkly girl who never stops. She streaks like a comet through the ho hum-ness of our family, blowing the lid off our comfort zones, and blazing new trails, like, er fashion.
The glasses are a fashion statement, apparently.
“Wanna hear me speak Spanish?”
“This is actually called star dust tap-dancing, okay? Ready?”
“Guess how many times I can jump-rope in a row with my eyes closed!”
Sometimes I worry about this girl, this girl who samples the full range of emotional salad bar options daily; this girl whose wanting, expectations and preferences often eclipse the reality of what is. Sometimes everything that confounds me about her is everything that confounds me about myself. We stand opposite each other, defiantly, like some cliché about mothers and daughters and the button-pushing machine of this particular feminine lineage. The same fierceness that knocks me out daily, this fierceness I deeply admire, will lead her to brilliant and healing things. I know this.
I pick her up and whirl her in the air. Her jump-rope falls to the ground, her legs fly out like streamers. She shrieks, her smile opening the window of her face. Clouds of joy gather in my chest. We belong to each other. We need each other. And we’re both going to be just fine.
Happy 6th Birthday, Rose Raven. I love you more than all the tomato plants in the world.
Birthday breakfast: bacon and fruit topped with whipped cream. Oh yes.
PS: Rose, it was me who told all your friends that it was okay to give you experiences rather than things for your birthday. You’ll thank me someday.
Real rain on actual garden greens: it’s like the reality show called “sometimes it rains in Southwest Colorado, and oh how we rejoice.”
It’s cloudy and drizzly, which makes everyone extraordinarily happy here in the Southwest. It’s like some scene from the Twilight Zone: rain is pouring slantingly from metal-grey clouds and everywhere you go, people say, what a lovely spring day! Even Rose, who is more in tune with say, current footwear fashion, walked outside this morning and said, “it smells so good, like fresh air and rain.”
Also, the fruit trees are blooming—pear, apple, crabapple, peach, plum—which, though it lasts maybe 2 weeks, I’ve come to think of as a season. The season of blooming fruit trees. There are so many fruit trees in our town, you could follow them on foot, zig-zagging from bloom to bloom like a honey bee or a spiritual seeker devoted to ephemeral beauty.
Last night at the Durango Dharma Center, our teacher, Katherine Barr, recited a Buddhist blessing titled, The Four Immeasurables, one line of which is: may all beings have happiness and the causes of happiness.
Sometimes I get confused about the causes of happiness. They’re not always what they appear to be, though it seems any hope preceded by the words “perfect,” “always,” or “more” is a set up, as in: happiness will come when I have perfect health, always feel calm, or have more money. Sometimes I find myself pursuing what I want blindly with arms outstretched and grabbing, thinking this is the key to happiness, while missing anything and everything worthwhile in the process. I forget that chasing happiness is like trying to catch dandelion seeds in the wind. The causes of happiness are always here, just waiting patiently to be noticed. Like a blooming fruit tree in May.
Spring days, 2013:
Me: Wake up. Shuttle seven tween chickens outside in laundry basket (clean up inevitable poop from two minute commute). Water hundreds of seedlings and their hundreds of shirker brother and sister seeds who remain uncooperatively underground. Tend the too-bereft-to-grow grass in our sparse and puny “lawn,” while attempting to remove clumps of uninvited grass spearing robustly out of garden beds. Develop new parenting skill: hearing the children playing outside when I can no longer see them. Tell Dan that tonight we really need to get the kids to bed early, really. Shuttle seven tween chickens back inside in laundry basket at night.
Rose: Count days until 6th birthday. Invent deviant games involving chickens. Throw self at Mama for slowdance when Rolling Stones sing Wild Horses, believing song is actually about horses.
The Roseness of Rose.
Deviant chicken game: chicken zipline.
Col: Build things out of things. Lose important stuff (socks, water bottle, sun hat), find even more important stuff (bottle cap, dead beetle, beaver-gnawed stick).
Dan: Find cast off elk antlers on weekly hikes. Bring kids bonus owl pellets from hike, announcing gleefully: they were in the exact same place as last year’s owl pellets! Watch basketball on computer at night. Tell kids in morning that our team (Denver) beat Baba’s team (SF). Not laugh too hard when Rose asks: was Baba playing? Call wife from work to utter lascivious comments.
Me: Try to remember to ask Dan about hikes and the antlers he finds (though he doesn’t need to share his stories, and will often tell me offhandedly, after dinner, after getting kids to bed how he tracked a mountain lion to 30 yards away. Oh that). Trip over boat Col is making from rubber bands and sticks. Scoop Rosie into arms and dance to Wild Horses, feel her legs clamp around me. Know I am luckiest Mama alive.
On the homestead:
:: The tomato infirmary. At least 1/4 of my tomatoes have what I’ve diagnosed as curly top virus, and more are falling everyday. I’ve been quarantining them and practicing saying, “I might not have any tomatoes this year, and that’s okay.” So far I sound as convincing as Richard Nixon circa 1973.
:: After some tricky business involving hurt feelings and exclusivity we took a day to study Emotional Intelligence in Rose’s homeschool co-op. Wow. The beautiful thing is kids have way fewer layers of defense built up than adults. The hard thing is that we’re all wired for self-protection, which often translates to blaming others, i.e.: “you’re mean, you’re not my friend anymore!” instead of “I’m hurt and sad, and I don’t like feeling this way.”
The kids acted out scenarios in which 2 kids are playing and 1 kid gets left out. Everyone wanted a turn to be the left-out kid who then speaks up and says, “I’m feeling hurt and sad. I want to have fun with friends too.”
Left-out child scenario, take 3.
We also used this matching game, Feeleez, to simply name feelings. The kids really gravitated towards “happy” and “sad,” but eventually we got to: disappointed, frustrated, scared, lonely. Marshall Rosenberg’s books about Non Violent Communication were helpful for me when preparing to teach. Hint (as per Rosenberg): if you say, “I’m feeling that….” this is not a feeling.
The 4 kids also decided that it was not OK to leave anyone out during homeschool co-op. If 2 people want to play together alone, they need to make a playdate. And then they went back to status quo: “Okay, lets say that we were sisters and our mother died.” “Yeah, and then we decide to move to Africa.” “Yeah, and I only have one arm.”
:: Col got married last Monday. He wore an off the shoulder black cape and his bride (who later whispered to Rose, “that was so embarrassing”) carried a bouquet of grass, comfrey, geranium and kale.
We babysit three sisters every other Monday, and bless Col’s sweet little heart, he’s always game for their plans.
:: Homeschool engineering, or physics, or something.
Pour the water in one end of the 20-ft, semi-buried pipe…
And create on the other end, inadvertently…a fountain pool for chickens!
Which is to say, if you’re looking for Col this summer, check the dirt pile.
I’m halfway through this book, which is so good and so long and seems longer because I had to put it aside to read this book, which came in via library request, and is the very definition of psychological thriller and I loved it, even if I felt like I needed a shower after finishing it.
The kids and I recently finished Under Wildwood (the sequel to Wildwood), which we all loved so much that when the kids got crabby with each other I could often stop the downward spiral by saying, “hey! do you think Prue and Curtis will ever get back home?” Now we’re reading a new Will Hobbs book, who is master of the coming of age adventure story.
What are you reading and planting and singing, dear people?
Definitely not about wild horses.
Seed-planting therapy is going just great; also peach-blossom therapy, greenhouse chard therapy, riding bikes therapy and opening the windows therapy, and today for the very first time: wearing shorts therapy! One might think that the collective diagnosis for our afflictions is called, simply, winter.
It reminds me of my friend David who had this old red truck, affectionately called Big Red. Big Red was a semi-reliable, gas guzzling, yet charming beast which made commuting to work more adventure (as in: will the truck start today?) than routine. When David bought a more reliable used vehicle, his girlfriend told me he was relieved and happy to get rid of Big Red. “But I thought he loved Big Red,” I told her, “it was like part of him.” “He had to love it,” she replied, “it required that of him.”
All this giddy relief of spring makes me wonder if I actually pep-talk myself through the beast of winter, because y’know, it requires that of me. I mean, I do love winter, don’t I? The indoor family togetherness, the snow blatting at the windows, the UNO tournaments that last until my brain starts oozing out of my ears. Right? Right?
Exactly what it looks like.
We’ve been waking up to Rose singing: “in the jungle, the mighty jungle the lion sleeps toniiiiiiiiight. A weeeee-eeeeeeeee-eeeeeee-eeeeeeeee-ahmamawayyyyyy.”
Then, 2 pairs of footsteps padding down the hall, and the kids flop into bed with us.
Rose: (in my ear) “In the village, the peaceful village, a weeeee-eeeeeeeee-eeeeeee-eeeeeeeee-ahmamawayyyyyy.”
Col: (plunging his hands in my belly) ”Mama, I love your soft, blubbery belly.”
Dan: (hands groping for a crumb of me the children haven’t already colonized, landing on a soft warm spot and staking his claim).
It’s Occupy Mama here, every morning, and despite loud sounds in my ear, small hands grabbing fistfuls of belly, and big hands roaming—sing-grab-grope-sing-grab-grope—I think this is the most lucky way to wake up ever.
After the bed-operas, there’s the owl pellets.
Also, did you know I use my own recipes from DIY Kitchen all the time? All the time. Which makes me feel like the housewife from some 70′s commercial announcing “we love rice-a-roni so much, I even made it for my son’s wedding!”
But I did! I made the (raw, dairy-free, sugar-free) frosting from this recipe for a very special park date Rose and I had recently. (And I’d totally make it for her wedding, too). We dipped apples into the fudginess of it and then nearly died from the deliciousness.
Raw chocolate fudge: avocado, unsweetened chocolate powder, and honey. Ninja hippie mom strikes again!
Photo by Rose!
And mayo! Have you made the mayo yet? It’s like a ballad that lemons and garlic sing to each other in the slippery ocean of olive oil.
And granola. Funnily, I didn’t actually have a granola recipe before I created one for the blog, and now I use that recipe every time, and each time I’m so happily surprised at how consistently delicious it is ( A recipe! Who knew?), which makes me feel even more like the housewife from the 70′s commercial.
The staplest staple of all the staples; except yogurt.
* Early registration discount for the The Dalcroze class ends Tuesday (tomorrow).
Big Red and Winter, buh bye. Hello to the resounding cheer of every little green thing singing its coming out theme.
ps: How do you wake up every morning? And what’s your spring therapy?
If you live in a place where spring is gently shaking the land awake, spreading greenness like a very slow Stadium Wave across the grey hillsides, but you’re dying to get your fingers in the garden, psst, I have an idea for you.
I started doing this last year – covering every inch of soil in spring with hardy seeds that aren’t bothered by a little frost or even snow, seeds that will become the salads of your future.
I know it’s hardly fair to post a picture of my greenhouse – but omg!
Now—even at 6512 feet—is the perfect time to sow carrots, peas, lettuce, spinach, kale, cilantro, parsley, chard, radishes, beets, bok choi, mustard greens and arugula seeds directly in the ground. Except for carrots and beets, all these leafy greens will mature by the time the primadonna cast of tomato plants march onto the outside stage, at which time, you harvest the last of your prolific greens and say casually to friends, “oh this whole succession planting thing? Yeah, it just makes sense.”
I mean really, now that we’re all making luscious soil, put that dirt to work. You can still reserve space for your honored tomato guests, just allow the placeholder of greens to fill the interim. I was trying to remember if this idea actually worked last year, and then I remembered that we took a ginormous salad to every potluck we attended all spring. So, yes.
purple mustard greens.
Be sure to over-plant, because there are a million reasons to fall in love with a salad. Plus, every time I toss another empty seed packet in the garbage, I mutter to myself, “wow, that’s some cheap therapy.” You feel this too, right? The simple joy of small green leaves who weren’t there yesterday popping up and waving at you like you’re at some joyous airport reunion, though really you’re in a stained t-shirt, windswept and maybe a little stinky under the arms, muttering to yourself in your cold, April backyard.
Rows schmows: the spinach clump.
If you’re still weeks away from the last frost-free date (we’re approximately 5 weeks away from safely settling tomatoes in the ground – but you know I’m going to push it), this is the perfect time to get started on your salad bar garden.
* These seeds all do best sown directly in the ground, no need to start indoors.
* Harvesting real food before June at these latitudes will make you feel like a very successful farmer.
* Make use of your soil, even if it’s not nearly close to perfect. Salad greens are easy and fast to grow, and don’t require the greatest soil. You can get your greens started while you find a source of manure for the summer garden.
* You don’t even need to have your summer garden plan figured out to get started.
* Also safe to plant now: chives, onions, turnips, potatoes.
* Spring is a wonderful time to work in the garden: cooler weather, the ability to harbor illusions that your weeds really aren’t much of a problem.
* Spring is a wonderful time for plants to grow: before the grasshoppers, before the sweltering sun, before the Takeover of the Weeds.
* Arugula, chard, kale, bok choi and spinach are listed in the book, 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth. Iron, Vit K, A, C, calcium, potassium, antioxidants, yada yada.
Also, you can scrap the whole civilized business of agriculture, and just eat dandelions!
*I did my first garden consult yesterday. I love seeing how people love their gardens. Also, I lowered my price. I’m coming to Montezuma County (possibly next Friday) for garden consults, if you’re in the area and interested, I’m waiving my travel fee.
* I ddn’t mean to be all cryptic with my last post. Everything is fine. Just good challenges, and sometimes I turn the comments off.
May your radishes and life be sweet and spicy.
Linking with Simple Lives Thursday
Little Drummer Boy
Col’s homeschool co-op’s play was amazing, and I mean that in the most unobjective way that everything your child ever does on or will do on a stage is amazing. (Including Col’s preschool stage debut where he forgot to hold up his painted sign at the appropriate moment and was nudged by 2 girl classmates who were 3 going on 13. He then dropped the sign, missed his whole part, and I still cried from happiness and pride).
Everything has been fab on the road-trip of parenting these past few months. I mean sure sometimes we get low on gas, or the road map occasionally appears to be written in Congolese, but we’re getting pretty comfortable with navigating the particular highways of our family.
And then, just recently, we came upon a chasm in the road that we don’t exactly know how to cross. It looks pretty deep and wide from where we stand, and also like something most parents will deal with at some point or another (read: perfectly normal, and also, still hard).
When I can get my forehead crease unstuck, I’m grateful for this new opportunity to grow as a parent. Neither parenthood nor life will ever be wrinkle-free, but if we can see these problems, these deep, scary chasms as the very impetus to grow, to become more fluent in kindness and acceptance (towards our children and ourselves) we will see that the chasms are not so scary after all. I am grateful that my kids challenge me to dig deeper, to be more patient, more empathetic, to see more possibilities, to meet them where they’re at with kindness and acceptance.
I’m also grateful that I’m not alone, that I have parenting allies who will hold my hand through the wilderness of parenting. Kathleen Hennessy of PeaceWorks Coaching will be in Durango leading workshops on Positive Discipline (which is for people wanting to get off the wheel of rewards and punishment and find sane, effective parenting solutions based on connection and respect) on the weekend of May 3rd. Thank Goodness. More on her workshops here. (Early registration discount ends Monday, April 22nd at midnight).
I’m freaking out a little with happiness right now. Mostly this is due to the fact that sometimes in the afternoon, I leave the house without a jacket. But really, I think it’s more about sensing that winter’s in its very last act. It struts half-heartedly around the stage blotting out a full flush of apricot blossoms here and there, but spring is crouched predatorily behind the stage curtain, ready to pounce.
More things I’m freaking out, happily, about:
:: Greenhouse greens.
Bok choi, beheaded.
The daily bowl.
:: My parents are visiting and we keep having the same conversation. It goes like this:
Me: thank you so much for taking the kids, they love being with you.
My parents: Oh no, thank you! We love being with them.
Me: They’re so lucky to have you.
My parents: Oh, we’re so lucky to have them.
This is called the stalemate of appreciation.
Playing Monkey in the Middle, with a balloon. Really. The kids are so lucky to have them.
:: The fact that the chickens, in addition to providing (future) manure and eggs, are the source of endless entertainment:
(I forgot that yesterday Col and Rose’s friend Kiva was scheduled to come over at 7am. Col and Rose, having had a sleepover the night before with Baba and Nana, weren’t here, so Kiva grabbed a chicken, swaddled her in a designated chicken towel and proceeded to sit quietly on the couch with her chicken for the next hour while Dan and I ate breakfast. Not kidding).
Chicken in a basket, which sounds like some suspect fast food meal.
:: Hops stitching up through the wilderness of our yard.
I’m always so grateful when perennials actually come back, despite that being their very definition.
:: If you happen to study the Oregon Trail ever, which happens to read like a fascinating kids chapter book (minus the Donner Party), your little people may enjoy making slates (like Laura and Mary used in school in the Little House Series). Take cardboard, cover with acrylic black paint. Let dry. Write on them with chalk, erase with moist towel. The kids loved these.
Lying on the hard, tile floor makes it even more authentically Pioneer-like.
:: Today, Col’s homeschool co-op is performing a play they wrote called, The Magic Tree. All participants get a tree to plant at their school. Col and his peeps are representing the Fertile Ground Life Learners School. Col is the drummer and his costume is a dashiki which belongs to a 6-foot tall man, so you can imagine I’m going to be dying a little from the cuteness.
What are you happily freaking out about this spring?
ps: There has been some interest in garden consultations in Montezuma County. If you are interested in a consultation and live in Cortez/Dolores/Mancos, I will wave the travel fee if I can schedule them all on the same day. Contact me.
pps: Dalcroze is coming back in Durango the first week of June!
It’s mid-April and I’m roaming my property like a fat land baron, bending down to sift the gold of our soil through my fingers, cackling at my riches. Actually, I’m really doing this. I just called Dan out of the root cellar to witness how you can knead your fingers into the silk of our carrot bed without hitting so much as a smidge of obstructionist clay.
It all starts with good soil
I am freaking out a little bit over this soil. Full disclosure: I *have* been investing in it for 14 years.
If you’re lucky enough to farm some river bottom loam, rich in mineral deposits and friability, well then, great, go toot your horn in the Easy Farming Parade. However, if you garden on a sea of packed clay, like myself, then, congrats!, you get the pleasure of building your own soil.
Everything I’ve learned about creating good soil, I’ve learned from the forest, which is always quietly building its most precious resource. It takes a village: ants and centipedes push embedded minerals to the surface. Leaves fall and are slurped by webs of fungal mycelium. Billions of microorganisms go about their invisible lives, sipping nitrogen and dying in the arms of hungry nematodes. Deer, birds and foxes perish, leaving their remains to nourish plants, and in turn their own relatives.
The local forest floor doing its thing: Candytuft (edible wild mustard) surrounded by leaves and sticks and fir cones, which will break down into next year’s surface layer of soil.
Every thriving plant starts with good soil.
How do you build good soil?
Organic matter. The end.
I just did a search on my blog using the word “manure.” Thirteen entries; my fave.
Manure. Leaves. Grass Clippings. Kitchen scraps. Compost. Straw. Repeat, repeat, repeat. I follow no more exact recipe when making soil than I do when making soup. Soup is the result of what’s in the fridge. Soil is the result of what organic matter is freely available. Often it’s goat manure from up the road, sometimes horse or cow if we get a good lead, and one year it was a truckload of little rabbit pellet stink-bombs from an octogenarian who went by “grandma,” all free for the taking.
Well-cured manure (lots of it) goes in the garden, dry things (leaves and straw) go on top of the soil as mulch, and anything that still has a scent (kitchen scraps) goes in the compost pile. In my yard, there is always a pile of something decomposing, because I’m partial to the notion of doing absolutely nothing while trillions of microorganisms spin scraps into soil.
Notes on soil building:
* Protect your soil. Cover with straw, leaves, dry grass clippings. You have neighbors who will thank you for taking these off your hands. Every year, we cover our soil with dry organic matter, and by spring it disappears, incorporated into the matrix of soil.
* If manure is “finished,” having sat for a year, add it directly to your soil.
* Don’t despair over clay soils. Clay is great at holding water, but not oxygen. Plant roots need both. Lighten your soil each year with organic matter.
* Tend a compost pile. There are a million ways to do this. A little article I wrote on making compost.
* If you have chickens, put dry fall leaves in their coop/run; they will shred the leaves and mix them up with their poop, creating the perfect ratio of nitrogen to carbon for decomposition.
Tween chick. (I promise to remove these words if it brings all sorts of Googling weirdos to my site)
“Chicken camp” on the Oregon Trail, a direct result of studying Pioneers and the Oregon Trail in homeschool co-op. Though, I can’t explain why some of the pioneers had British accents.
* Be patient. My oldest garden beds are insanely luscious, but the newer ones still contain curse-worthy proportions of clay.
* Try to layer organic matter rather than dig. Digging and tilling disrupts the underground networks of fungal mycelium, which feed nutrients to your vascular plants. More on that here.
Any ideas to add? Questions?
Linking with Simple Lives Thursday
I believe you can grow a lot of food on a small amount of land, harvesting edibles from April through November. I’ve been putting my ideas to the test for 15 years, learning how to work with the challenges and blessings of the high altitude Southwest and am now offering on-site consultations for edible landscapes, in which I help you with:
* Identifying, and plotting on a timeline, your goals for the growing season.
* Tailoring your goals to the microclimates and niches of your specific piece of land.
* Best watering practices for roots, fruits and leaves.
* Which plants thrive at 6512 feet, and when to plant/harvest them.
* Making the most of our short growing season.
* Which seeds to start indoors (or buy from nurseries) and which to direct sow.
* Assessing your compost set-up.
* Identifying the weeds growing in your garden; which are edible or medicinal, and how to control them without pesticides.
* Improving your soil.
* Methods of chemical-free plant fertilization.
* Assessing your space for adding chickens.
* Answering all your gardening questions to the best of my abilities.
Time: One hour
Cost: $30 (price increases for on-site visits more than 5 miles out of city limits)
Interested? Contact me at: sanjuandrive(at)frontier(dot)net