Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Winter on the Farm, Plus a fun interview with Us!

Winter is in and out here in Ohio and we are enjoying, but are also looking forward to spring so we work daily to appreciate the present. The colors of this recovering land are more subtle this time of year, but still present and so appreciated by us summer souls.

This snag in our fence row must surely offer homes to native bees - the bees we are really working to encourage on our land.( Here's an interesting read on honeybees and their relationship to nature, which might surprise you.)

One thing I just love about winter is that it forces us to notice the little and subtle and yet, the still infinitely important.

Winter and early spring also allows us to observe water movement, which has us dreaming of more places to create vernal pools. Yes, yes, yes! Water is such a tremendous gift and we really want to retain as much as possible on our property and not allow it all to drain away. Plus, I seriously need more frogs in my life.

Little chickens took lots of time mid-winter as we helped with injury from cold, but we are happy to say Miss Fern is back with her chicken girls and doing well recovering from a frostbitten prolapse. (If you need help with this, message us. We facilitated her healing when the vet thought she was a goner!)

Every day with sunshine calls us outdoors and frequently to our favorite Mohican State Park/Forest where we climb hills, spend time amongst old trees and this past week - witnessed 10+ Bald Eagles soaring over the Clear Fork, enjoying the day just like us, I expect.

Water and forested hills, you work some genuine magic in the spirit.

We soon head back to AZ for more hiking on the Arizona Trail - this time slower so we can absorb those wild places the way our bodies, minds and spirits tell us to so we will write again in the spring.

Until then, in case you miss us, here is our interview with Misti of The Garden Path Podcast. She is a blogger living in Texas that we are so excited to get to know. You can read her blog here.

We hope you all are well and warm and inspired...

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

A Few Thoughts on Forest....

Happy Holidays dear friends and family; we wish you goodness and love for 2018!

Before the deep freeze set in, we enjoyed a super balmy December walk and wanted to share the beauty we discovered on this particular hike made more poignant because we are digging deep into some thoughtful reading material this winter (listed below) and are reconnecting with our solid rooting in nature. What a JOY to remember it's all about the know, instinctively, we are not separate from this planet that we live on and that we are bound by visible and invisible threads uniting us to all life. The immensity and grace of this remembering continues to reshape our thoughts and feelings and all we previously learned to be true. It's time for a reckoning, I believe.

American Holly makes me so darn happy every single time I see it - those festive berries and brilliant evergreen leaves lend such artistry to winter landscapes.

As many of you know, both of us have a complete and thorough love affair with vast wilderness and mountains and alpine lakes and clear streams and sunshine and any and all things rocky and ancient and that we also have this innate, homeland love of Eastern Deciduous Forest. What you may not know though, is that this love of these Eastern forests is really hollering at us lately and when I say hollering, I mean HOLLERING.

I think somehow growing up where we did (IN) we loved the trees, but took them for granted in a million ways and forgot to talk to them and to listen to them. We didn't use the right language to talk about them and we didn't always see that trees want to grow in forests and that forests are different than trees and that the forests' elegance is in their unity, in their inclusivity, in their binding of threads. Trees give us so much and spending time amongst them is such a gift. I mean pinch me! Do I really get to live amongst these beings? Walking down the trail, I can hardly keep my hands off their trunks in total and complete reverence of their lives as plants, their longevity and fortitude, diversity, beauty....

Because these trees share so much with us, we want to know them and to speak of them not as "its," but as kin (thank you Robin Wall Kimmerer). Part of knowing them is listening to them, but also paying homage and observing.

Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida) grows bark similar to all other Flowering Dogwoods, but unique to that species so we can begin to know trees by looking at the architectural masterpiece of cork cambium. Steve is the true master of bark id and I owe my knowledge on this topic pretty much solely to him. (This love of trees rooted deep in that boy at a very young age!)

These small round plates always introduce Flowering Dogwood.

The sinewy Musclewood (Carpinus caroliniana) shows strength in the bark sinuosity.

Dead and decaying wood and organic matter is without question the foundation for all future growth in forests. With overwhelming gratitude, I thanked this Turkey Tail for the noble work of decomposition. Where would we be without it? (Yes, I do this. Yes, I am eschewing much of my learned science-without-heart crap.)

The dark coloration and thin ribbons of bark acquaints us with American Redbud (Cercis canadensis).

This particular tree tells us not only who ki is, but also a story of the past - a time when an American Beaver attempted to utilize this tree located near water to help dam the water. The wound is now scarred and healed so that the tree continues to live and photosynthesize and offer food and sustenance and shelter to so many others.

This tree grows very tall and straight, with furrowed bark, often tinged with white amongst the furrows....the spectacular Tulip Tree (Liriodendron tulipifera).

Forests hold and clean water and offer that water to us and myriad other life forms in so many ways, including as places to breed for the spectacular Wood Frog and Spotted Salamander and all the other vernal pool (seasonal wetland) dwelling life. Vernal Pools are my heart.

Somehow their pulse is my pulse and if you are someone who knows about vernal pools, you know my heart is shattered routinely as I pass plowed fields with scars of destroyed vernal pools or witness humans digging out these seasonally wet areas for their big pond, which destroys the life that depends on their seasonality. (I love big ponds too! Just not at the expense of a vernal pool.) These vernal pools are synonymous with forests because many of the species that inhabit them need both....the pool briefly for breeding and upland forest the rest of the year for food, water, shelter and room to live.

This is what we see right now on I-71 North of Columbus on the East side of the road. Another forest for sale that is filled with vernal pools. What will go there? Something that can replace the irreplaceable?

This forest and all the vernal pools are now completely gone. When we first moved here in 2010, the forest had been mostly destroyed, but the vernal pools left protected somewhat by laws and regulations. What those laws and regulations failed to consider is that vernal pools are not isolated places; they function within the relationships of the forest. Now, due to more lax laws and the questionable practice of mitigation, these vernal pools are forever gone unless some dear soul buys up this giant chunk of land, breaks the tile draining away the precious water and lets the forest heal.

And this, my friends, is where my mind and heart go daily - the goodness of the forest, the awfulness of a society based almost solely on consumerism, the goodness of people and the magic of this planet. So, we hold hope close and we put our feet forward as part of the planting revolution and part of the choir singing the praises of respecting life and one another.

Books we are reading:

The Living Forest

The Lost Language of Plants 

Finding Peace through Spiritual Practice

Songs listened to while writing:

Future People

Meet Me in the Woods

The Obvious


Steve's video on drainage tile. How ironic! Listen till the end....

Sunday, December 10, 2017

The Little Hoop House That Could

By Steve:

After many years of dreaming, scheming and research on various forms of hoop house design and construction we got tired of "analysis-paralysis" and just did it the easy way (small, cheap and simple):

So how did we do it? Well, first we decided to solve a number of problems simultaneoulsy. We had some raised beds in the back part of our garden and that area had proven too wet so why not use the soil and boards from those raised beds to create the base and growing beds for our hoop house? We could then move the garden fence to just behind the hoop house and transform the back (wet) part of the garden into what it wants to be (wetland). Below is the completed base with part of the planting beds being solarized and part planted to long-season sweet potatoes. Behind that you can see some prominent yellow flowers - those are Jesrusalem Artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus) - great for pollinators, great for people (tubers are edible and delicious)!

Fast-forward and here we have the frame up, the ends framed and the door and window installed. The door was pulled from someone's trash, the window was re-purposed from our house, the plastic was a gift from our brother-in-law. We had to buy hardware and hoops. We opted for PVC to do the hoops to simplify the process. We don't anticipate strength issues as we are not in many-feet-of-snow-per-storm country and, for wind-abatement, we can tether it to the garden fence if need be. 

At the last minute, we consulted our handy Polytunnel Handbook and opted to hold down our plastic on the sides by digging a trench and burying the plastic in that trench. For good measure, I added some gravel to the trench bottom to act a bit like a French drain. We like this trench method because, if you need to tighten the plastic, you can simply walk on the backfill a bit. 

Here is the finished interion complete with gravel floor, small hoops for extra protection using row covers and lots of greens!

So we've gotten the old raised beds moved and transformed into a hoop house. What about that garden fence that needed moved so that we can restore our wetland behind the garden? 

We did that too!

Back to the main point - we now have our easy, simple, cheap hoop house after all these years. Our advice to others with similar desires: go for it, keep it simple and have fun!