Category Archives: Blog

PERMACULTURE ** Design Principle #1 – OBSERVE

This afternoon this wild turkey was just outside the fenced portion of the area I will be gardening in. Turkeys are one of the many critters that want to eat the food I grow!This afternoon this wild turkey was just outside the fenced portion of the area I will be gardening in.

This afternoon this wild turkey was just outside the fenced portion of the area I will be gardening in. Turkeys are one of the many critters that want to eat the food I grow!

The 10 permaculture design principles I’m posting about are applicable to all sizes of gardens from the very smallest to full on farms. I’m revisiting them now because I’m expanding my gardening efforts (again) and it’s good for me to go back and review before I start new projects, otherwise I tend to get carried away with enthusiasm and do things that may or may not work!

Permaculture design principle #1. Observe 

Before starting a project whether it’s big or small, acres and acres or a new patio container garden, take time to observe thoughtfully and carefully – the longer the time taken to observe the better. Observe how each season interacts with your environment or if you just can’t wait (I couldn’t) than observe for as long as your patience (or winter) holds out and then start small (I didn’t) and learn from what works or doesn’t work on a small scale. I’m learning that moving mountains before I understand the lay of the land is counterproductive!

[Side note . . . these principles work great for ANY project whether it’s a garden, a business or a blog. It amazes me how universally applicable these principles are.]

I went out today and spent time on the land where I intend to expand my gardening and orchard growing efforts next spring. I took some took notes and photos of possible locations. I noticed what plants, birds, insects, and mammals are living there now at the end of summer. This first principle is a challenge for me. I want to jump right in and start doing the project. I’m still learning that thoughtful observation is much more rewarding in the long run than thoughtless uninformed action.

I tell myself all this as I realize that I still jump into projects head first without a lot of informed observation like deciding I’ll start doing stained glass windows and then figuring out that it’s a very challenging art form that requires lots of time, tools, materials and yes, patience, or blogging – talk about a steep learning curve! Good thing I have a hard head since I keep landing on it! When I back up and apply the permaculture principles to all my projects I find the results are much more sustainable and rewarding.

Here’s a list of questions I made before I went out today:

  •  Where is the sun? Where do I predict it will be throughout the day? Is the garden in shade in the afternoon or morning? Is it in full sun all day?
  •  How does the water flow and where does it collect? How will I deliver water to this space during the dry summer months? How will I conserve water?
  • What might work best large pots, raised beds, sunken beds, a “hugelkultur” bed? I’ll be talking about hugelkultur and other new (and some very old) ways to garden in later posts?
  •  How much time will realistically be devoted to this new garden?
  •  How often will I be leaving this new garden in the hands of friends, family or neighbors?
  • What kind of soil is in the area to be gardened? Will it need lots of nutrient rich compost and mulching? Can I produce this on my property or will it have to be brought from off site?  Does the soil need to be tested for possible contaminants?  Will I have to do a lot of clearing?
  • Where will paths go? How will I get the harvest out of the garden? Am I leaving room for a wheel barrow or if needed a truck to get to the produce?
  •  What critters will I have to deal with? How will I keep them out of the garden?
  • You could try this with a project you are looking to start. Jot down your answers. Post them here on the blog to share with others. Your observations may spark insights for others. If you have questions please ask. If you want to share gardening adventures please do!

You could try this too with a project you are looking to start. Jot down your answers. Post them here on the blog to share with others. Your observations may spark insights for others. If you have questions please ask. If you want to share gardening adventures please do!

Location shots for possible garden expansion project…

organic gardening, raised bed gardening, permaculture, seed saving, growing heirloom vegetables, herb gardening, planting fruit trees, edible landscaping and water harvesting also garden art, mosaic, stained glass

First possible location for vegetable garden expansion for next years summer garden

permaculture

Second possible location for vegetable garden expansion for next years summer garden

permaculture

third possible location for vegetable garden expansion for next years summer garden

 

 

PERMACULTURE ** An adventure in lifestyle change…

lawn_irradication,organic gardening, raised bed gardening, permaculture, seed saving, growing heirloom vegetables, herb gardening, planting fruit trees, edible landscaping and water harvesting also garden art, mosaic, stained glass

February 5, 2010 Doing away with the backyard lawn!

Our journey towards living a more sustainable lifestyle started four years ago when my husband and I decided we wanted to live a little more off the grid. I was curious as to how much of our own food we could actually grow and I wanted to experiment with alternative energy. I was looking into solar hot water heaters and using solar panels to supply household electricity, as well as water harvesting techniques.

I was somewhat familiar with organic gardening practices, composting and the idea of using rain barrels but I hadn’t had a much long term success with any of it so I figured, since I was planning on doing something on a larger scale, I should learn a lot more about it. I did a bunch of research and discovered the term “permaculture”. While still living in a one bedroom apartment I started checking out books from the library and reading lots of articles on the internet. I decided that permaculture was the way I wanted to go when we finally found land somewhere. Once we bought our four and half acre property, permaculture design principles gave me a framework to work within that was both practical and in alignment with my wish to live a more sustainable lifestyle.

Without the permaculture design principles I would have been completely overwhelmed. I was about to begin gardening on a large scale, in a four season climate, in the mountains and it turned out that there was a lot of competition from hungry critters for just about everything I grew to eat. I could make lists of things I wish I’d known before and after we purchased land in the back country! I would do it all over again but I would be a lot more prepared and do more than a few things differently right from the beginning. At the very least I would know what questions to ask, questions I never thought of until after we moved.

So in an effort to both remind myself as well as share with others I’m doing a series of posts on 10 permaculture design principles based on what I’ve understood from the book Gaia’s Garden, A Guide to home-scale Permaculture by Toby Hemenway. When I use these principles I’m productive in a ways that are more sustainable for myself, others and the planet and I achieve an overall saner existence! I would love to hear from you about your experience  if you have started using these principles and if you haven’t yet I’d like to hear what questions you have. I invite you to subscribe and be part of discussion about what we are all doing to have an environmentally friendly sustainable lifestyle.

 

PERMACULTURE ** Definition

 

Calville Blanc d'Hiver Apple Tree Guild- Guilda are a new way to grow fruit trees

Apple Tree Guild –  Fruit Tree Guilds are a different way to grow fruit trees – think of it as companion planting for trees.

Definition of Permaculture:
Permaculture (Permanent Agriculture) is the conscious design and maintenance of cultivated ecosystems which have the diversity, stability and resilience of natural ecosystems. It is the harmonious integration of landscape, people and appropriate technologies, providing shelter, energy and other needs in a sustainable way. Permaculture is a philosophy and an approach to land use which works with natural rhythms and patterns, weaving together the elements of microclimate, annual and perennial plants, animals, water and soil management, and human needs into intricately connected and productive communities.” –  Bill Mollison, founder of Permaculture and Scott Pittman, founder of the Permaculture Institute.

 

 

 

GARDEN JOURNAL ** PHOTOS ** Fall Fruits

Fall Harvest

Tomato

Tomato

Single raspberry

Single raspberry

Red Delicious Apples

Red Delicious Apples

GARDEN JOURNAL ** How to mend a hose that’s sprung a leak

Today my hose sprung a leak. I suspect a critter chewed a hole in it. Last month a pack of coyotes chewed my neighbor’s hose into eight pieces to get to the water in it. She’s the one who told me to always have a few hose repair kits on hand! I Used the Gilmour 5/8” hose mender.  It’s quick and easy. I used my garden clippers to cut the hose where the hole was and then followed the directions on the packaging. The only other tool I needed was a screw driver. People often throw away a hose that has a hole in it because they don’t’ realize how easy and fast it is to fix. This hose took me 5 minutes to fix and it’s one more thing I can keep out of the landfill.

how_to_mend_a_hose

How to mend a hose

Instructions on how to repair a garden hose

Tools I used to repair my garden hose

garden_hose_repair

Half way through the garden hose repair job

Garden_hose_repair _job_complete

Garden hose repair job complete

 

 

 

 

GARDEN JOURNAL ** PHOTOS ** Photography from the Garden

Getting some photographs from the garden ready for the Julian Arts Guild Studio Tour

October 19th and 20th, 2013 Everyone is invited!

sunflower_with_two_bees

Sunflower with two bees

coral_bee_balm

Coral Bee Balm

4 lefts 1 right Garden Gloves

4 lefts 1 right Garden Gloves

red_cabbage

Cabbage

julian_grown _heirloom_red_delicious_apple

Julian grown heirloom red delicious apple

nasturtium_seeds_in_julian_pie_pan

Nasturtium Seeds in Julian pie pan

 

For information regarding the Julian Arts Guild 2013 Studio Tour contact:

Julian Chamber of Commerce
P.O. Box 1866, 2129 Main Street, Julian, CA  92036
(760) 765-1857
http://www.julianca.com/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

GARDEN JOURNAL ** SEED SAVING ** It’s time!

 

 

Saved Cilantro Seeds. Cilantro seeds are also known as coriander

Saved Cilantro Seeds. Cilantro seeds are also known as coriander

End of summer and into Fall is the time for seed saving!

3 reasons to save your own seeds:

1. It’s a planet friendly, sustainable, resourcing saving thing to do. When you save your own seeds to plant next spring you save the paper and ink it takes to package seeds, you save on the fuel it takes to ship and you save the water it takes to grow all the seeds that get shipped every year. It really adds up when you think of how many people order seeds every year.

2. Saving seeds saves money. Good quality organic seeds go up in price every year. Why not harvest what we have in our gardens and save our cash?

3. Saving seeds is FUN! It’s a great activity to do with kids. I keep same handy to work on when I sit down to talk on the phone or watch a movie. The best part is when I get to plant seeds I grew in the spring!

When I started ordering seeds for my garden 3 years ago I only ordered only open-pollinated seeds. When you save seeds from open-pollinated seeds you know the crops you harvest the next summer are going to be the same vegetable you harvested the year before. I avoided all hybrid seeds when I did my initial ordering. Hybrid seeds are produced by artificially cross-pollinating plants. Folks in the agriculture business starting creating hybrids to improve the characteristics of the resulting plants, such as better yield, greater uniformity, improved color, longer shelf life and disease resistance for the mass commercial market. The downside for gardeners in all this is that hybrid seeds do not grow the same plants the next year from saved seeds. Hybrid seeds can revert back to any of the plants that it was initially crossed with when it was created and that’s what makes for inconsistencies in plants grown from hybrid seeds. Farmers who use hybrid seeds have to buy seeds every year from the seed companies that produce hybrid seeds.

Heirloom seeds are open-pollinated seeds that have proven their value over a long period of time. The value may be in the flavor, productivity, hardiness or adaptability of the fruit or vegetable produced from the seed. Many heirlooms have been grown, saved and passed down in the same families for generations; some even go back 300 years. As home gardeners and small market farmers we get the benefit of this long development cycle, as only the best producing, most flavorful, most memorable and most dependable varieties have made the selection throughout the years.

All heirloom seeds are open-pollinated seeds but all open-pollinated seeds are not heirloom. Some open pollinated seeds are newer varieties that are bred to be stable in what they produce from seeds saved but they may not be old varieties.

The one thing I ran into in my garden that you may want to watch out for is… When I planted regular green zucchini seeds to close to yellow crook neck squash seeds what I got was my own unintentional hybrid with the help of the pollinators in my garden. I ended up with some very strange half crook neck – half zucchini looking squash. I ate these strange naturally created hybrids but I did not save their seeds! A great book on seed saving (and it tells you how far apart to plant seeds that are in the same family to avoid unintentional hybrids) is Suzanne Ashworth’s book Seed to Seed.

Harvesting cilantro seed

harvesting cilantro seed

green beans drying on the vine

Green beans drying on the vine

GARDEN JOURNAL ** FALL PLANTING ** Seeds to sow in August for a Fall Garden

Mixed lettuce

Mixed lettuce

For me, here in Julian where we get our first frost around mid November, late August is it for fall planting. The seeds I sow now must really like cold weather. Long Standing Bloomsdale and Winter Bloomsdale Spinach, Bronze Arrowhead Oakleaf Lettuce and Rough d’Hiver Romaine Lettuce, Evergreen hardy Scallions and a few last minute Bolero Nantes and Little finger Carrots all went into the garden yesterday.  I sowed Bright Lights Chard, Roquette Arugula and Calabrese Broccoli seeds last month from seeds I saved from my early spring crop.

GARDEN JOURNAL ** FALL PLANTING ** Iris Rhizomes

Iris Rhizomes ready for planting

Iris Rhizomes

I don’t usually plant non-edibles but often neighbors and friends ask me if I need or want something they have dug up because they have to many or they are doing garden remodeling. I really can’t say no and irises are lovely;  so today I planted a bunch of irises a neighbor gave me in a bed where I already had daffodils. It was perfect timing. The ground was still wet from the rain so the soil was easy to dig into and late summer is a great time to plant iris rhizomes. Iris rhizomes only get planted about four inches deep and they like to be well watered in.

 

Yellow Iris in full Bloom

Yellow Iris in full Bloom

 

 

 

 

 

GARDEN JOURNAL ** After the rain pull out the Bermuda Grass!

Bermuda Grass roots and rhizomes coming off a shoot and

Bermuda Grass roots and rhizomes coming off a shoot and

After the rain is the best time to go after Bermuda grass (and if you are brave poison oak or ivy). Why, what do these two undesirables have in common? Runners! Both of these plants spread from rhizomes or root crowns. This means they send out shoots and where those shoots touch the ground there is the potential for roots to grow from that shoot thereby starting a new plant that then establishes itself and starts sending out runners or shoots of its own. It just keeps encroaching deeper and deeper into your garden if it’s not weeded out. If you don’t want to use herbicides in your organic garden then after the rain is the perfect time to go out and pull up the Bermuda grass that may have been sneaking into your garden this summer. This happens in my garden because it was a converted (shudder) Bermuda grass lawn. I compost just about everything EXCEPT Bermuda grass (and poison oak). Bermuda grass has a strong will to survive, there is a reason it is used to cover sports fields! If you toss your pile of Bermuda grass weeds into your compost pile, over the neighbors fence or leave it just sitting in a corner of the garden new plants will grow where the pulled up weeds  touch the ground. They will start to propagate themselves all over again, SO Bermuda grass is one of the few things I bag up and send off our property.

SEASONAL RECIPE ** How to make Refrigerator Dill Pickles. It’s easy!

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Mixed Cucumbers for Refrigerator Dill Pickles

I grew and gleaned (with permission) from my neighbor’s garden a mixed batch of about 15 medium to small cucumbers for making 7 pints of refrigerator dill pickles. Some of my cucumbers I left on the vine too long and the seeds got big and tough so I had to put those aside to dry for seed saving.  Only 3 of my cucumber plants made it this year. I’ll plant at least a dozen small (approx. 1o”x10”x 4” high) hills of 3 cucumber plants each next spring to make sure I have enough cucs for pickling, but if you don’t have that much space in your garden plant what fits and make small batches of pickles.

I made dill pickles last year and they were a big hit. They are well worth delegating real estate in the fridge and to tell the truth 7 pints usually gets eaten (or given away to friends and family) within a month although they last up to 2 months in the fridge. I did notice as they aged they lost some of the crunch.

You will need:

6-7 Sterilized Mason jars – You can sterilize your jars in a water bath of boiling water or in the dishwasher – Use Ball brand or Kerr jars with coated metal lids with rings. For refrigerator canning I reuse lids I have on hand (when I can veggies and fruit in a hot water bath I ALWAYS use new lids to be sure food stored on pantry shelves stays safe to eat months later). Simmer (not boil) your coated metal lids for 5 minutes for sterilization. (Note: you can now buy BPA free lids)

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Ball jar, magnetic lid lifter, jar funnel, coated metal lid and ring

magnetic lid lifter comes in handy to lift lids that have been simmered.

Large wooden or plastic spoon  

jar funnel comes in handy too. Not just for this project but for all canning projects!

Cucumbers: Exact amounts are not necessary when making refrigerator pickles. Ideally you want about 15 small to medium dark green, firm, warty looking cucumbers to make 6-7 pints of pickles.  Bloated cucumbers, cucs that are puffed up so the bumps are all flattened out, are overripe and soft pickles. You can use regular cucumbers or pickling cucumbers, pickling cucumbers have a bit more crunch to them. I use what I have on hand; just don’t use the “burpless” variety. Frankly not all my cucumbers were ideal for this batch and the pickles still came out tasting good and crisp! You can cut them up any way you like. I do spears, rounds and chunks, I like variety. For spears cut them so you have about ¼” to spare at the top of the jar.

You can buy pickling mixes but I like to make my own. It’s really easy.

Combine the Mix ingredients listed below in a non-metallic bowl:

2 cups vinegar – It can be apple cider vinegar, white distilled or a combination of both depending on your taste. I used white distilled this time. Hopefully I will scrounge up more cucs before the end of summer to make a batch with apple cider vinegar just for variety.

1/3 cup organic sugar – Amount of sugar can be adjusted to taste and tolerance for sugar.

1/3 cup salt – not iodized. Sea Salt or Kosher Salt works best.

½ cup packed fresh dill – I use leaves and green dill seeds from the dill in the garden. I don’t use the dried seeds.

3 white onions – I was out of white onions and so I used scallions (the bottom white part of the scallion) which I had in the garden. They worked just fine.

3-4 chopped up cloves of garlic –This is to taste. If you like garlicky pickles double the amount!

1 tsp dry mustard seed –I’ve also seen recipes that used celery seed instead, experiment and use what you have in the cupboard.

Heat the Mix in a non-metallic pan, glass or ceramic is best. Teflon works too, just not my first choice. Cast iron, aluminum and stainless steel pots all react to the vinegar and make your pickling solution turn cloudy. Heat your mix to just barely simmering for only a minute or two. This releases the flavors of the dill, garlic, mustard seed and onions into the vinegar solution. Some recipes don’t call for the mix at all so if you are into all raw you can skip heating the mix.

dill pickles, refrigerator dill pickles, garlic, onions, dill, dill pickles

Time to pack the jars!

If you have them put one grape leaf in the bottom of each sterilized jar. The tannins in grape leaves inhibit the pectinase enzyme (a chemical that breaks down and softens the structure of the pickle and you end up with less crunchy pickles). Some folks say this is not necessary but if you have grape leaves why not? If for no other reason the leaves look pretty in the jars!

I like to put some of the mix in the bottom of the jar and then pour the rest on top.  I had enough mix to fill most of the jars about half full. The ones that were a bit short I added more vinegar to make the jars all half full then I topped them off with drinking water up  to a ¼ inch from the top. I use filtered water. I sealed them with the sterilized lids, let them cool down on the counter then popped them into the refrigerator. Now the hard part…wait 48 hours before eating!

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Pickles packed in white distilled vinegar, dill, onions, garlic and mustard seed.

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Jars filled with dill pickles ready to put into the fridge.