Thursday, October 5, 2017

Grayson Highlands State Park & Mount Rogers National Recreation Area

We headed to SW Virginia at the beginning of September to meet up with dear friends to camp and explore in Grayson Highlands State Park and the bordering Mount Rogers National Recreation Area. (Thanks to Jen S. for the tip to head this way!)

The area is famous for its Wild Ponies (used to keep the created "balds" open) and we met some right away. No, we didn't feed them or touch them, but we sure did enjoy hanging out with them.


The entire area is very scenic and we so enjoyed meandering amongst flowers, fall colors, mountain views and of course, taking time to sit and just savor. We've known Beth for years and were so excited to meet Pete, her husband. You know you are kindred, when everyone wants to sit and learn knots together! Check out Beth's blog here and a past outing we shared that inspired us all.


All you Appalachian Trail people know this white blaze well. (If you love this trail, these beautiful landscapes and healthy ecosystems, please take action! I had no idea a pipeline was about to go through; it's time to say NO!)


Sneezeweed growing along a fence made us all smile. What a happy plant! This is one we are already growing in pots at our home in OH to get a population started here since: we love it, it's a late bloomer, it's native and loved by bees.


Blue Ridge Mountains are such an appropriate name for these blue mountains.


This young wild pony just had to say hi!


After spending two nights camping with our friends, we headed into the backcountry for two nights. The freedom a backpack with all we need to survive is a feeling we will never underappreciate. It's completely empowering and simplifies life in a way nothing else does for us.



Nights out in wilderness are sacred to us and put our physical and mental selves in such a place of sanctuary and refuge.



Hurricane Irma arrived in VA on our second to last day and told us to head on out before inches of rain and crazy winds kept us in the mountains longer than we had provisions for.


To be on the far, far, far, far edge of a storm like this tests us and ties us to the power of nature in a way sunshine does not. It's exhilarating and we are just as grateful for these experiences when we have the opportunity to leave. For those in the middle of these terrible events, we cannot even imagine the horror. (This quick video is so loud with wind so be prepared with your computer speakers or earbuds. It's so worth watching though to see the wind and rain.)

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When we parked to hike in, this parking lot was packed but the weather apparently sent everyone home. It's a busy, busy place in fair weather so be prepared, but it's also a really spectacular place to experience.


Monday, September 18, 2017

Gratitude, Autumn & Final Plant Nursery Days of 2017

It's happening...the end of summer and the beginning of fall. We can hardly believe it's true, but the plants, the sun, the birds, the insects and the calendar all agree. We are so grateful for all of you that purchased our homegrown, super functional and beautiful native plants and planted them in the world to do their work. THANK YOU.




In deep appreciation of you and of this planet we are offering a fabulous sale for the end of the 2017 growing season. This Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday (9/19, 9/21, 9/24) from 1 p.m. - 5 p.m. we are offering all plants buy 2 get 1. That means: buy 2 plants at regular price and get one free of equal or lesser value.


Take our end of season VIDEO TOUR.


There are no limits on the plants you can buy two get one free so this is your moment! You can find the plant list on our webpage and if these times don't work for you, but you really, really want some plants message us. We are sold out of some species and the last three open days will be first come, first serve so we apologize in advance if the plants you want sell out. There's always next year!


We are planting more plants almost everyday on our property because we really can never have enough plants in the ground and it's a great time of year to plant. The roots have time to establish a bit and soon the fall rains will arrive making for easy work. I mean, who can resist these blooms?! (Certainly not us!)


The girls are hanging around the nursery showing off their cuteness, of course:


They are also helping me water plants in, which makes it so much more fun!


Autumnal beauty is arriving here daily and the important late season pollinator plants like Riddell's Goldenrod are hosting myriad bees and wasps and delighting us with their rich color.


South-bound Monarchs are feasting on Goldenrods, Asters and Mexican Sunflowers. (VIDEO) It's truly a magical time of year and we wish you the happiest of falls. Next blog post we will take you far from our home into the mountains of VA.


Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Peaches, Tomatoes, Caterpillars & Video Entertainment

Fall is settling in it seems so summer produce is slowing down, but the past few weeks put us to work processing food, running our plant nursery and soil consulting business and observing all the magic of nature calling this land home.


A friend shared oodles of peaches with us that we turned into jam. Imagine this mid-winter!


Our windowsills and any open surface are routinely covered in produce waiting for processing - which sometimes makes cooking a challenge in a small kitchen - but we are beyond thrilled with all this pure food...no chemicals, no pesticides, no GMOs....just sunshine, water, plants and their pollinators.



All the milkweed we grew for 2017 sold this past week to several different monarch raisers, which made us so happy for the caterpillars and for the plants which really didn't want to be in pots anymore. We are seeing our fair share of monarchs here now and lots of caterpillars, which is encouraging.


Viceroy caterpillars munched through some of our young cottonwoods, which responded with more leaves. It's such a cool butterfly and plant so I made a video.


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Steve found our first Giant Swallowtail caterpillar this year on our Hop Tree, which is in the Citrus Family (Rutaceae). I checked our Prickly Ash (also Rutaceae) and found another. We are beyond thrilled! This specific butterfly is what we hoped to attract when planting their caterpillar food plants. Success is so deeply satisfying. What you do in your yard and with your land makes a HUGE IMPACT on local wildlife. Videos are becoming a thing, I think. 


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We also made a video highlighting the seed crazy American Goldfinches and the fabulous American Plum. There is so much coolness here we can hardly stand it!


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Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Late Summer Garden, Pepper Mulching, Tomato Hornworms = Fun!

 It's peak summer and it's beautiful.



Steve is master of so many trades and as he works his true devotees follow with excitement...



This summer he is tackling a project we've talked about for years....a lean-to greenhouse. He is building this with all salvaged materials so our current pricetag for this project = $0.



This is on the south side of our green barn, which he salvaged from the burn pile when we moved here. It's a happy place now.


Gourds and winter squash that self-sowed are faring much better than winter squash we intentionally planted so that means there is something I need to figure out.


This year, with the cool temperatures, our winter squash grew very little and with that slow growth, they couldn't hold their own against the squash vine borers. Next year I need to figure out a way to co-exist because we love Squash Vine Borer Moths and winter squash!


The vegetable garden is managing itself in many ways now and is such a beautiful place to spend time.



We posted at the beginning of the summer about cover cropping tomatoes and peppers and we think it's working great. The peppers look fabulous and we are preserving them and utilizing them in numerous ways including tomato glut sauce, salsa, green chile fermentation and drying. It's amazing how quickly this mulch breaks down when you have lots of little decomposers in the soil working their magic.

Peacework Sweet Peppers:


Poblano Peppers and Aster, Fern and Ebony:


The middle bed is newly sown to Crimson Clover for planting in next year and to protect the soil over the winter :


Our tomatos look exceptionally terrible this year due to the cool, wet conditions, but we are still harvesting oodles and oodles and have plenty to share with the always fantastic Tomato or actually more common Tobacco Hornworm. Long ago at the first garden I worked at I was taught to kill these beautiful caterpillars that turn into the also beautiful Carolina Sphinx Moth. (Check out one of the plants they pollinate. WOW!) This practice felt so very wrong and made me feel AWFUL. Then I realized I can just share so we plant an extra plant or two and all is good for them and us.


Our onions are all harvested and we are using the tops to mulch our beets so the soil is covered. The beets looked terrible prior to this and now they look so healthy and happy. Protecting the soil is obviously key.


Our King of the Early beans kept getting munched and munched by rabbits early in the season, but they are setting their dry beans, which we will enjoy all winter long. We would love to grow many more types of heirloom, dry beans; the beans are often fabulously colored and have such rich taste.


Another project the phenomenal Steve is tackling is our first, small high tunnel. This is the base and I just planted the open two beds to all our winter crops: carrots, beets, kale, spinach, chard, cilantro and parsley. The full bed is our superstar sweet potato that sprouted and gave us slips, then offered its still super sweet flesh to us to eat. We so hope we get more.


I have to end with Mexican Sunflower or Torch - one of our most favorite annuals - for its beauty and the nectar so loved by Monarchs and the seeds so loved by birds.


Happy, happy.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Summer Happenings: Monarchs, Promethea Moths, Art, Family & Friends

It's summer and we love it! Overall, it's been a very cool summer so our winter squash and tomatoes are just sort of sitting in the garden waiting for heat. We will see how much food we get from them this year. We are making a high tunnel and lean-to greenhouse this fall to help with season extension in different ways so next year, we hope, will be easier. We will post here as we progress on these projects.

We are seeing lots of cool nature stuff though, including monarchs - finally! There are lots of little eggs on our milkweed, which is just so dang exciting. Remember the Monarch Tent from last year?


We aren't doing that this year to try and keep disease low, but continue to work to improve their habitat here and work with township officials to safeguard roadside milkweed. Sometimes a little pink flagging and a friendly ask can work magic.


Steve found a fabulous find on our Tulip Poplar - the super beautiful Promethea Moth caterpillar:


We've found 4 on the tree so far and are enjoying watching the leaves disappear knowing they are raising one of the magnificient silkmoths that continues to struggle. (Here's an older article on this topic.)

Want to see a 1.5 minute video on this sweet little tree of ours featuring these caterpillars? Click here.

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In other nature news, I met on several occasions one of the huge, fabulous Fishing Spiders (Dolomedes tenebrosusin our basement. This one lives primarily in wooded areas and ventures indoors fairly frequently. They eat most anything they can find and subdue.


A Clymene moth (Haploa clymene) was spotted on one of our Red Cedars we recently planted for a wind break. We saw dozens of these many years ago at Swamp Angel Nature Preserve in IN so it was fun to find one again. The caterpillars feed on Eupatorium species, oak, peach and willow and the land grows all those here.


Summer is also a great time for visiting with friends and we are so grateful to everyone who documents since we always manage to forget. We met up with our favorite Art Grange folks to spend the day exploring art (clay/fiber, willow) and nature at an open house in Roseville Ohio. If you are local, make sure you attend in the future...it's a beautiful and inspiring place.


Michelle and I were so charmed we started flying around like butterflies and birds!


The willow sculptures, fences, gates, baskets, etc. are so so cool. Steve is pondering this, of course.


We traveled to see family and friends; family and friends came to see us in Ohio. Life is good. Here's Jennifer's family:


Nope, we aren't twins...two years apart. Love this girl!


We continue to work our native plant nursery (thanks to everyone who has already helped spread these plants out into the world to work their magic!) and soak up all the goodness of life. The insect chorus happening now is one of our most favorite annual events. More soon. Take care everyone.