Saturday, April 26, 2014

Losing the Lawn

The world has finally put on her spring clothes!!  She is painted with a million shades of green from the delicate yellow greens of the oak flowers and new leaves, to the deep blue greens of the violet leaves.  Even on the inevitable grey days that spring showers bring, everything seems to glow with inner life.

All this wanton growth means my lawn needs mowed... always.  Even just the day after I mow it, the dandelions send their airy heads skyward, giving the lawn a ragged, half-wild look.  WeeHavyn's rocky slope makes the work hard and quickly ruins a blade, even on the highest setting.  Bare patches abound and there are more weeds than grass in some spots.

I'm well aware that with a lot of work and money, I could have a yard of perfectly manicured grass, helped along by copious amounts of fertilizer, water, and pesticides.  Of course that wouldn't solve the problem of having to mow... but I guess I could hire someone to do that.  Somehow the prospect of all that isn't the least bit appealing to me.  I can't get past the fact that all those resources are going toward something that offers nothing back and is potentially harmful to WeeHavyn and her family.

What if I could use that space to grow food?  Well, a vegetable garden isn't really an option.  The steeply sloped soil is rocky and everything is partially shaded.  Annual plants need deep, rich soil and lots of sunshine to be able to gather the energy they need to produce in just one growing season.  Yet the common vegetable garden isn't the only way to produce food and it certainly isn't the easiest, especially in less than ideal conditions.Using perennials allows one to baby new plants for a year or two and then just maintain and harvest after that.

Hardy Kiwi, Blueberry, and Goji Berry plants.
Enter the concept of a food forest.  This method of gardening centers on perennial plants and a technique called layering which mimics the way a forest grows.  The top layer are the large trees, which WeeHavyn already has in place.  The next layer are the shorter trees, in this case dwarf fruit trees such as cherry, plum, and apricot which aren't bothered by the black walnut tree in the hedgerow.  Next are shrubs, such as gooseberries, hazelnuts, blueberries, etc.  There are so many rare and interesting fruiting shrubs that I have a very hard time choosing.  Then come the vines such as kiwi, passionfruit, and grape.  Ground cover plants such as strawberries and wintergreen happily nestle at the feet of the rest of the layers.  Finally there are the root plants such as sweet potato, Jerusalem artichoke, and oca, which are basically annuals that leave tubers to grow back the next year.  All of these plants have their place and can be planted in such a way as to make WeeHaven more beautiful than she already is.... without mowing.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Here I Go Again!!

Last fall, my life fell to pieces.  The very foundation of the life I had known for 18 years crumbled away in the span of a few days and I questioned everything about who I was and what I was doing.  I wasn't sure which dreams were "mine" and which were "ours".  So I stripped my life of everything but the bare minimum and spent the dark winter trying to find some answers.

This is Paulina, my new Nigerian Dwarf
The beautiful weather and burgeoning life all around me have worked their magic this Spring.  The doubts I had about the direction WeeHavyn was taking are clearing away.  The goat and chicken pens seem empty and forlorn.  I miss making cheese and the all the fun having animals afforded me.  I even miss the steady rhythm of doing chores.

And here is her sister, Perdita!
Yet not everything is the same.  Life unwinds for us in a spiral and we never end up in the exact place we left.  I did enjoy the freedom to just drop everything and go.   I have reconsidered the type of goats I want as well as the breed of chicken.  I still haven't decided if I want rabbits again and I'm seriously considering a couple of hives of honeybees to pollinate the perennial food forest I'm starting on. 

One thing has not changed. I still have the tendency to plunge wholeheartedly into a project once I've made the decision to do it.  I've already purchased two Nigerian Dwarf doelings.  They will be coming to WeeHavyn in May.

Onward and upward!

Monday, April 14, 2014

An Unusual Strawberry

Spring is in full swing in the Ozarks.  Redbuds are covered with magenta cloaks and the chaste white petals of Bradford pears shower down and waft in the breeze like a delicate bridal veil.  Birds trill and call to one another in a melodious conversation. The crocuses and narcissus have faded away, their beauty early and short, but so very welcome as a bright signal that winter's grip has finally loosened. 

One of the most important lessons WeeHavyn has to teach me is to keep nothing in my life that is not useful or beautiful.  In fact, I strive to only keep those things that are both.  So I decided to plant strawberries in this year's porch planters.  After all, what could be more beautiful that a sparkling red berry and more useful than strawberry topped cheesecake?

Well, how about strawberry plants with lovely pink flowers?  This spring, I discovered the Tristan strawberry.  They are an everbearing type strawberry so I should get berries most of the year.  They are practically runnerless and have the most beautiful pink flowers followed by elongated ruby berries. 

A perfect combination of useful and beautiful....

I had an issue with the cats using my porch boxes as beds last summer and smothering my plants.  I guess the cool, moist soil was just too much to resist.  Pressing sticks in the soil helped some, but they weren't sharp enough and could be pushed over.  So this year I put a U shaped piece of 1"x1" wire in each box with the cut ends sticking up.  It seems to be working so far.