Inventing The Wheel

There is nothing new under the Sun.

This has been a hard lesson to learn for me as one who is always trying to come up with some new, wonderful thing that could potentially sell. Once upon a time I tried to invent a harvest apron based on my own needs when trying to use whatever top that was on me to cradle the pickings wasn’t fitting the bill. When I finally bothered to “Google” it, someone had already stolen my idea. Ha! So much for that, and they were selling it for way under my cost of labor, let alone the materials needed.

After Thomas Edison’s seven-hundredth unsuccessful attempt to invent electric light, he was asked by a New York Times reporter, “How does it feel to have failed seven hundred times?” The great inventor responded, “I have not failed seven hundred times. I have not failed once. I have succeeded in proving that those seven hundred ways will not work. When I have eliminated the ways that will not work, I will find the way that will work.”

All of the things we use every single day were invented by someone somewhere. It’s mind boggling.

After years now of trying to figure out how to grow food, it is becoming ever more clear that Mother Nature knows exactly how to do it and the key is to be with her enough to hear what she has to say. Read, read, read…hear what others have to say…go to the ‘experts’ for advice; but the only sure way is to actually do it and live in the results.

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Even then, it’s very perplexing and the science behind it is complex and sometimes hard to grasp.

Researchers have long assumed that the main way that plants lose water is through leaf pores called stomata. When water is abundant, the stomata open wide to let carbon dioxide flow in — maximizing photosynthesis, but allowing water to exit. Plants also lose moisture through a leaf’s waxy outer surface, or cuticle, but this effect has been considered negligible…

Is this why my plants look so dwarfed compared to the ones I see in places that get tons of rain? Are they not opening their stomata enough to take in carbon dioxide because of so little water and trying so hard to conserve what they have/transpiration? No, that doesn’t seem to be all there is to it:

Higher temperatures cause the plant cells which control the openings (stoma) where water is released to the atmosphere to open, whereas colder temperatures cause the openings to close. Relative humidity: As the relative humidity of the air surrounding the plant rises the transpiration rate falls.

I’m so confused.

Hand watering is terribly inefficient, not good to splash dirt up on the plants, and some don’t like water on their leaves, especially in this arid, Sun-tortured desert. It’s a great way to get to know the plants though and I rationalize my water use by claiming I’d rather use it to grow plant food than to eat meat.

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There is no way to know it all either. Things continue to unfold and awareness follows. Reading about how and when the wheel appeared in history revealed that sequences occur. First tools that could be used for the precision of making them had to have been already invented. And, of course, there had to be a value and need for them.

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Inventing the wheel was certainly an achievement; but as history tells, when roads weren’t available (war ravages), camels came back into play and that was because camel saddles had been invented. The wheel was of little value for transportation.

It’s an awesome world we live in.

I can’t imagine living without a wheelbarrow or a hand-truck. I certainly wouldn’t lash things onto the backs of animals and burden them with that trouble.

The moral of this story is though that Mother Nature has it all figured out already and we don’t need to re-invent what She is already an expert at. We just need to pay attention and study her habits.

She’s the best teacher of all.

They say that most inventions derive from nature, but that the wheel was a completely human invention; nothing like it exists in nature.

As far as gardening goes, I’m going to follow the wisdom of Thomas Edison and claim no failures, just eliminations of what doesn’t work.

Happy Gardening.

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June 29, 2017

 

 

 

Is Happiness Overrated?

Not long ago I finished up to season 7 of the Doc Martin series. Season 8 has yet to be released. I want to own that series someday. I could watch it over and over. It really makes me feel happy for some reason.

I think it is because it is a rather poor community of people who care for each other in all ways. Martin is the rich ‘outsider’ who comes into the play of things because of his own frailties; he has a phobia of blood for one thing and is forced out of his passion and extreme competence as a surgeon. He has to face his ‘failures’.

The character Dr. Martin Ellingham is a brilliant man who has issues with expressing positive emotions. At a point, he and his wife Louisa seek professional help for their relationship. In an answer to the therapist, Martin says, “I think happiness is overrated.” He would like to ‘make’ Louisa happy, but he doesn’t think it is necessary for himself.

As the story unfolds it is revealed that Martin had suffered an emotionally deprived childhood. He wasn’t wanted by his mother and his father was self-involved.

I love his character. Even in the depths of emotional isolation, he struggles to turn his unsuppressible love for Louisa into a good thing; he sees the errors of his parents ways and realizes he doesn’t want to be that way himself.

A big key to unraveling what genuine happiness is seems to be self-discovery and not hiding from truths.

In the 80’s I read “The Road Less Traveled”, by Scott M. Peck. In the book he is describing what he says to a patient when they ask about terminating their therapy. He tells them, “When you yourself are able to be a good therapist.”

To which he claims many patients say,  “That’s too much work. To do that means that I would have to think all the time in my relationships with people. I don’t want to think that much. I don’t want to work that hard.. I just want to enjoy myself.”

A permanent feature on the bottom of each blog post on this website is my all time favorite quote about success.

This seems to be where happiness resides for me. When I feel that I have met a challenge and not shirked from it, I feel a real sense of happiness.

My career in design was often grueling. It required tedious attention to detail if I didn’t want to run into trouble and even then, my own efforts were no guarantee because there were so very many others involved in the process. It meant constant attention to ‘relationships’, constant thinking, and exhausting work, both mental and physical.

But, I remember one specific job that was especially grueling and at the same time exhilarating. A woman wanted a bank of woven wood shades on a string of windows on the street-facing side of her house. There were so many little issues, I can’t even begin to explain it. The shades themselves had all kinds of details that had to be properly considered; where brackets can be placed, valances over the brackets, how far above, how close together between blinds, the gaps that would exist…and then there were the windows themselves with no two measurements alike.

Well, it was an unbelievable amount of focus on detail and required mathematical gymnastics that I felt forced to attend because my livelihood and reputation fell on that focus.

The job went in without one single solitary hitch. I felt probably the same way a rock star feels after an especially successful concert. I felt as high as a kite.

Driving home required a trek along a long stretch of downward sloping highway. Well, in my stupor-high from self-satisfaction, (happiness), my foot got heavy and a cop’s light went on behind me. Somewhere in the conversation he asked me where I was coming from and what I did for a living, (my car was filled with samples). When I explained that I had just come from working with a client as an Interior Designer his face lit up. His daughter wanted to pursue that path. I further explained how utterly high I was feeling from the ‘success’ of the job that had just been completed.

He was the nicest cop I have ever experienced. He gave me a chance to explain. He gave me a warning and let me go.

Part of why I think I wanted to remove myself from that career was because I had had relative success and I wasn’t interested anymore in going through those grueling episodes for money.

Money has NEVER been the ultimate motivation in anything I have done. It has always been about  pursuing my own truth, feeling free, and knowing that I was seeking truth in all things related to that freedom.

I do think though that I have gone a little too far in a direction I need to turn back from, isolation. I feel a need to reengage with ‘society’ again. That is what I will be working on to improve on the happiness I already have in this life of #VoluntaryRadicalSimplicity.

Even in this radical simplicity, there are needs and no one can kid themselves that it can be done without some form of ‘money’/ exchange.

This is where the new goal comes in, Spare Shelf, (an old business idea that needs to be exhausted), and why I am determined to get this old house in a less than hovel condition.

More than simply positive mood, happiness is a state of well-being that encompasses living a good life—that is, with a sense of meaning and deep satisfaction…

…Research shows that happiness is not the result of bouncing from one joy to the next; achieving happiness typically involves times of considerable discomfort. Money is important to happiness, but only to a certain point. Money buys freedom from worry about the basics in life—housing, food, clothing.

~ Psychology Today

“Meaning and deep satisfaction” involves getting outside of self. Hopefully I can be what I need to be to make this change. It’s not about the money. It’s about feeling a deeper sense of value in the world. One that isn’t focused on negative things, but in making better things happen.

The Road Less Traveled

The Road Less Traveled

Are you happy?

What makes you happy?

Willy Nilly Whimsy

*This technique of watering annual weeds to get them to sprout and then wither before they can set new seeds —known as premature germination—has been used by organic farmers for many years to control weeds. When the weeds grow up, they shade and cool the ground long enough for the vegetables to get off to a good start, then they act as mulch for the vegetable garden, cooling the ground and conserving moisture. When the autumn rains arrive, fewer weeds come up since they were “tricked” into germinating too soon. Mr. Fukuoka is suggesting that this technique could also be useful in broad-scale rehabilitation for establishing trees, shrubs, and perennial grasses. – pg. 73 – Sowing Seeds in the Desert ~ Masanobu Fukuoka

Seems this man has the most useful ideas of all of the permaculture practices toward not needing, (eventually) any external inputs; which is very attractive to anyone who is living a lifestyle of #VoluntaryRadicalSimplicity.

I’m about to turn 63 and have almost a year now of making Social Security stretch to keep me going. It certainly requires frugality, to say the least. However, it is so much better than wondering day to day if enough sewing jobs would appear in time to make ends meet; now they can be supplemental income. And, of course, it has freed me up to be in the garden more. It doesn’t get any better than that in my book.

It’s amazing how little one can get by on when one decides to do just that. It has been a wonderful experience for me. I have stopped using a washing machine so therefore have stopped wearing one outfit after another, am wearing clothes until they are sufficiently dirty (who am I trying to impress in the garden) and have realized that it is true that we mostly wear 20% of our wardrobes 80% of the time.

Fortunately, my intent to add income to my SS is to up-cycle fabrics and clothes I’ve hoarded all through the years to sell in my Etsy shop; so, nothing will go to waste here.

Broadcasting seeds of many sorts

Broadcasting seeds of many sorts

This is a patch of dirt in the #SouthFacingBackYard that was getting scorched by the Sun. I wanted to do something to cover it so brought out a collection of seeds that hadn’t found homes yet. I threw in some bean seeds for good measure. I had in my hand, turnip, eggplant, beets and carrots. Couldn’t tell you now what went in here and I haven’t grown the first two before so don’t know what their sprouts look like. They were broadcast over the area and then the “Garden Claw” was used to break up the soil and mix them in. The area was raked to even it out. If they do well, they might get thinned a little to have a potential harvest. The goal was initially to just see what would come up in this parched, unamended dirt and to get it covered with something living that would create biomass, chop and drop for mulch and roots to feed the soil microbiome.

A little terraced area in the #SouthFacingBackYard

A little terraced area in the #SouthFacingBackYard

As it turns out, they are congregating some, which is good as it allows some space for traversing through them; willy nilly whimsy is what it is.

This seems to be more like how Mother Nature might decide to do things. She doesn’t plant things in rows and make trenches for the flow of water. Whatever lands and likes the spot comes up and plants that like to grow together do.

Volunteer tomato and cantaloupe among the strip of bunching onions

Volunteer tomato and cantaloupe among the strip of bunching onions

Bunching onions seeds from one grown last year were sown in a little strip inside the wire fence in front of #CompostCorner. Mulch in the form of debris that had been cold-composted was used to lightly cover the area. Volunteers have shown up; cantaloupe and tomato for sure, not sure what some are yet. There’s portulaca in there too which is an edible ‘weed’.

A little strip for bunching onions that had volunteers come up from the 'cold compost' material around them.

A little strip for bunching onions that has had volunteers come up from the ‘cold compost’ material put lightly over the sown area.

Tomatoes transplanted into the #NorthFencePlot

Tomatoes transplanted into the #NorthFencePlot

Several things have been sown behind and in front of the tomatoes that were transplanted from seeds sown in pots. When one thing failed to germinate, it was either resown or sown with something else. Sunflowers and zinnias were put up against the fence at the beginning of Spring but failed. There are just now a few zinnias showing up. Carrots were sown in front of the tomatoes because “Carrots Love Tomatoes”. One or two little seedlings can now be spotted after broadcasting whatever I had in my hands when doing the terraced area in the back. I guess they saw competition coming and decided to have a go?

The #RaisedBed in the #NorthFacingFrontYard

The #RaisedBed in the #NorthFacingFrontYard

This bed started out with cabbages that overwintered. Popcorn seeds were sown in two rows and eventually bean seeds were sown on each side and between those rows. Sweet potato slips grew on the farther end of this bed last year, so this year they were put in starting on this end going up to where things are volunteering in the ‘cold composted’ material put over the area they were last year; more willy nilly whimsy.

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It feels like the season got off to a slow start but actually it just got off to a start that suited my own pace with life in the not-so-fast lane now. This method seems to allow for more intuition-based growing and just practicing to get to know Nature’s ways.

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The #TriangleRaisedBed is also full of volunteers and things that decided to germinate after being raked around a few times. It’s a #WaitandSee thing here. All of a sudden a bunch of little green sprouts appeared; they do things their own way and in their own time.

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wil·ly-nil·ly
ˌwilēˈnilē/
without direction or planning; haphazardly.
whim·sy
ˈ(h)wimzē/

a thing that is fanciful or odd.

At first glance the field appeared to be a failure to everyone, with the plants growing in such confusion…

…In the first year people sow the seeds, in the second year nature makes adjustments, and in the third year many unplanned and unexpected surprises begin to appear. That is when nature begins to make a natural garden for us…the vegetable flowers had bloomed, gone to seed, and reappeared as volunteers. Other seeds had been eaten and dispersed by birds and mice, and, as a result, the vegetables were scattered in every direction…”

– pg. 130 – Sowing Seeds in the Desert ~ Masanobu Fukuoka

I can’t recommend this book enough. It makes so much sense to me and is full of wisdom and philosophy as well as planting/not planting techniques that are designed to work with Mother Nature rather than against her.

Cheers and a hope for great success to you this growing season; however you garden, just that you do is a great thing.

Volunteer Marigold

Volunteer Marigold

 

 

So Much Abundance

I sometimes feel that I don’t live simply enough. I feel like I have so much abundance, it might even be too much.

I lived in the world I now criticize for many years, though I was never comfortable in it. I used that system just enough to get to where I could leave it. I was in my early 40’s.

At the beginning, I was simply ignorant and following the ‘American Dream’ like I thought I was supposed to. For years, I worked as a designer helping people create wonderful spaces, and loved the creative process; but I always felt that it was so much for nothing. A lot of what I made money on was contributing to the unsustainable system we are now engulfed in and I could feel it. I did, however, live in a tiny, tiny (about 400 sq ft at most) apartment for 20 years. I only bought a house, after my mother passed, when I had accumulated enough to make a sizeable down payment toward what I thought would be future security. I was lucky enough to come out less scathed than many. Timing is everything.

Last night I made the mistake of visiting some of my old friends on FB that have achieved great monetary success and started to feel a sense of failure. I started feeling a little shame about the condition of my dilapidated home. I always come full circle after an episode like that and realize that I am exactly where I want to be.

I get up every morning with something wonderful to tackle. The fact that I have to find unconventional ways to accomplish most things just adds to the adventure and resulting sense of achievement. I guess for some, the achievement of so-called wealth is the goal; the material elements just an outward expression of that.

This particular person won’t read this, I’m sure. We’ve lost touch. We were roommates for a couple of years when we were in our 20’s. Even then, it was evident that nothing was enough for her. I soon backed away from involvement with her because I was quite content with very little and her lust for ‘things’ filled me with anxiety. She now has a huge ‘ranch’ with many horses, attends dressage events, (her daughter competes where she failed to), in a souped up giant motor home with amenities the rich and famous would envy. She has a second home in Hawaii and a shop for western wear that is cram packed with all manner of dead animal things, Swarovski crystal embedded handbags and authentic Indian jewelry she touts as “having great weight”; the bigger the better I guess.

Seeing all of that eventually gave me the same anxiety it did when we were roommates.

So, full circle, I’m up again this morning tackling some wonderful things. It’s so hot in the mid-afternoon now that I am finding inside jobs to do. I have lots of second hand furniture that almost all need some kind of amending. This is how I get my “Designer” on now. Years and years of accumulating ‘junk’ here and there is being transformed into a space I love.

As a designer, I was privy to left over materials and have quite a stash of great drapery and upholstery weight fabrics to play with. It’s now a matter of what to use for what.

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This was a huge piece of a highly sought after, (at that time), Waverly pattern. Over 20 years ago, I cut off pieces of it to make little curtains for my mother’s laundry room. I’ve always loved it, but couldn’t quite find the right place for it. It’s cotton, so even after all of these years it is in excellent condition. There is enough to make two side panels for the big window in the living room. I’ve committed to using it as a jumping off point for what I put on or do to other things.

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This is a chair I inherited from my sister. It is in horrendous shape because I tried to paint the fabric and frame and the cane sides have gotten punctured. It is really comfortable and guests seem to prefer it. Until I can make myself learn upholstery and re-caning, this fabric table round makes it tolerable. Another thing from my sister.

The floors are all getting a mosaic tile treatment. I ran an ad in our local trader not long ago and got quite a big stash for free from just two contributors.

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I just brought some in and laid them on the bedroom floor to start washing and deciding how and where I want to lay them.

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Years ago, when ‘head vases’ were all the rage, I certainly couldn’t afford them, but found a love of these animal vases instead that were just a few dollars each. For years they lived in boxes. Periodically being influenced by the minimalist mentality I would think, “I ‘should’ get rid of them”.

I’m so glad I resisted. After donating 2/3 of my books to the library awhile ago, I got the vases all out and put them on the highest shelf that I look directly at when lying on my bed. They make me so very happy. Little things, mean a lot, and… I built the shelves myself, (using closet brackets, planks and included poles), which adds to the satisfaction. I use the poles all of the time to sort clothes while doing laundry and for displaying things I’m working on up-cycling.

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Okay, so this isn’t actually using the pole, but I do, I can assure you. There is a collection of things I made (or am making) hanging here and sometimes they are strung out on the pole to inspect. Here they don’t take up so much visual energy but are still available to remind me I’m not finished with them.

Over winter, when it was the opposite of now and too cold to be outside in the garden, I brought fabrics in to work on up-cycling projects. They are just being sorted to take back out to the studio; which is a ‘next’ project to get sorted and set up to use during these too-hot-to-be-outside days of Summer.  Everything for sewing has finally made its way out there. It just needs to be tweaked into better organization for actually using.

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I have a few nice things that need no help from me. Years ago now, when I opened a window coverings business here in town, I splurged on this mirror chest to act as a centerpiece in my tiny little shop. I just simply love it.

The electrified hurricane lamp sat on my mother’s nightstand for years. I was the beneficiary. These kinds of things I just can’t part with. I remember many days of sitting in her room with her and seeing it.

The green triangle bowl she bought from a thrift store. One day we were ‘mooching’ through and I was fondling it, too poor to purchase it. Sometime later, I was delivered her conventional brown paper bag with a ‘tear dryer’ in it. It was this bowl. She gave us things when she thought we needed cheering up.

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This beautiful work of art was purchased just as it is in a second hand shop. I ‘needed’ it. It has all the colors and sensibility of things I like.

The dangling bookmark was my sisters. Some verse of wisdom was written on the back but has now rubbed off.

The cheap utility clamp light, $6.97 at Walmart, is perfect to read by. It reflects the light on the ceiling and broadcasts it softly all over the room.

The headboard, of which there are a queen and full, (the full is in the guestroom), were donated by a client of mine when we were setting up a home for my dear departed sissy. Now it has come back to me. It could easily be padded and upholstered.

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I thought about getting rid of this old set of The Books of Knowledge. My father was a pushover for door to door salesmen. We got these instead of the Encyclopedia Britannica. Many reports were written from these.

Before parting with them, I sat on the edge of my bed with a random one and it opened to this page. The information is timeless and not often made as easily understood as this, so these books are staying. So much for a minimalist lifestyle.

So much abundance, sometimes I feel like it is too much. I’m just grateful that most of it is old, pre-owned, inherited and still of great usefulness.

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There are projects at every turn. Again, my mother bought each of her three girls and herself too, this print; all of them second hand. The frame and glass have broken, I still have the pieces of the frame. It’s on the to-do list. Meanwhile the laundry basket, making its way to where it is supposed to be, supports it where I now want to hang it, reminding me to get both things done.

I dreamed about my old roommate last night. I guess that is how we process thoughts and get them sorted. I woke up feeling not one bit envious of her exorbitant lifestyle. Au contraire. I felt revitalized, convicted for having had such lusting thoughts and renewed in my confirmation to live as radically simple a life as I can possibly accomplish. And, happy as a lark about it.

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Because I don’t use air conditioning, but rather fans blowing on me when I sit or lie, I get to enjoy the sounds of silence and whatever warm or cool breeze might flow through the open doors and windows; fresh air anyway and sweating just helps process toxins, right?

I hear bird song most of the day.

People refer to me as “the lady with curtains hanging on her porch like they do in Bisbee”. The curtains help keep out the morning sun from the East in the Summer, give me privacy from my neighbor all times, and help keep the cold out during Winter. The folding shutter is out there to make an enclosure for the kitties. That will be on one side for privacy from my neighbor and the other will have a chicken wire door for a catio of sorts. Projects at every corner. If I had no end of money, I could hire someone else to do it, but then what would get me up in the morning?

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Standing on the mudroom stoop.

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Mountains all around

Soil is defined as that portion of the earth’s surface in which it is possible for plants to grow. It is the storehouse containing the chemicals which men and animals need to build their bodies. We do not get these chemicals directly from the soil. Plants draw them from the soil and change them into food that we can use. We eat the plants, or animals eat them and we eat the animals. If the soil lacks the necessary chemicals, the plants that grow in it are partly or wholly unfit as food for man.

Soil is made up of mineral and organic matter. The mineral part is rock that has been broken down and chemically altered by a process called weathering. The organic part is composed of decayed plants and micro-organisms (very small forms of life). Most soils are made up largely of mineral matter, but there are exceptions. Muck has about 50 per cent organic matter; and peat has more than 70 per cent organic matter.

~ The Book of Knowledge – Volume 7, page 2663 – ©1956

So, muck is a good thing.

It’s all about perspective. I’m glad to have had my perspective challenged and brought full circle back to being wholly satisfied with #VoluntaryRadicalSimplicity as my chosen style of life.

Now, what project to do next…

 

 

 

 

 

In Due Time

The main reason water is disappearing from the rivers is that rain has stopped falling. The first step we must take in countering desertification is not to redirect the flow of rivers, but to cause rain to fall again. This involves revegetation.

Trying to revegetate the deserts by using the scarce water remaining in the rivers is putting the cart before the horse. No, we must first revegetate vast stretches of desert at one time, thereby causing rain clouds to rise from the earth. ~ pg 60-61 Sowing Seeds in the Desert ~ Masanobu Fukuoka

What I have quickly discovered after removing straw and wood chips from my planting areas and instead, planting green cover crops is that the interspersed food crops are fairing better than they did last year with the carbon type covers. I think it is because of the humidity that the green cover crops create when they transpire, thereby cooling the area some as well.

As it is, in a desert, for carbon covers to be of value they have to be irrigated regularly to break down and they don’t seem all that efficient at holding much moisture; especially not straw. I decided to invest that same water in green covers that will be chopped and dropped eventually. It makes more sense, to me. Both clover and buckwheat flower. Bees love the clover. Turns out there is a honey that tastes like molasses that depends on buckwheat for the bees. Win-win.

Bees in the buckwheat

Here is something I would do if I could. Bees in a field of buckwheat seems too good to be true. The source of my all-time favorite honey, Fagopyrum esculentum, just doesn’t want to grow in my shady forest apiary. Believe me, I’ve tried. So I have to be content looking at a photo like this and dreaming about the molasses taste of buckwheat honey.

I’m also throwing out old seeds willy-nilly. Why not? Whatever should come up, can be more biomass or food if it ends up fairing well enough.

Here are a couple of stands of buckwheat that are doing especially well. They seem to like being up against something.

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Behind the pomegranate tree, the straw was pulled away and buckwheat scattered.

The intention is to improve soil. The straw there did very little to improve the soil. This will be chopped and dropped closer to monsoon season when the rain will help it decompose more consistently.

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The #WestMost corner of the #SouthForty Triangle lot was ‘clawed’ up and buckwheat broadcast.

The dirt in all areas of this compound is sandy. It is hard until watered well and then the water dissipates quickly. When developing this corner, it was watered heavily so it could be dug up to remove Bermuda grass. Nothing has been successful with Bermuda grass except to do this at the beginning. I suppose if lasagna beds were made, in due time, it would smother the grass; but there just weren’t resources for that.

After the Bermuda grass was removed, the dirt was leveled out and newspaper/cardboard/straw was laid over it. It had very little effect in a year’s time except that the newspaper and cardboard were broken down. That is now being use in the Humanure bin.

All of the straw was raked off and put into the paths this year and then I got out the ‘garden claw‘ and broke up the dirt enough that buckwheat could be broadcast and raked over to set it.

I’m so glad I decided to do this. I’m much happier with the results over carbon covers.

The other thing one might be afraid of is competition, but my experience thus far has been that everyone likes being crowded. Below is an image of what looks like a watermelon that has volunteered. To the left is a cage over a pumpkin that was transplanted from the patch on the down side of the #4HugelBed. It’s as lush as can be.

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Looks like a volunteer watermelon in there among the buckwheat and zinnias.

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The #PumpkinPatch has a fourth one sprouting. Two others were transplanted.

I have been using the raked off wood chips and some leaf mulch to cover transplants and seedlings where they are too exposed. As a result, volunteers are popping up all over from seeds that didn’t germinate in the areas that material came from. I always pulled back the covers to sow seeds, but the birds kick it back over; so when it got raked up, it brought seeds with it. Whatever works to get things started.

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Tomato transplants covered with leaf mulch

Where the wood chips were laid, volunteers are popping up around the tomato transplants; beets and looks like radishes.

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Bunching onions covered with a little bit of leaf mulch.

Where I sowed bunching onions was covered with a little bit of leaf mulch that also brought over some things to surprise sprout.

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#5HugelBed with clover and buckwheat around a couple of food things

The #5HugelBed was just installed at the beginning of this season. Clover was immediately broadcast over it and later filled in some with buckwheat. I think it’s two cantaloupes growing there, not doing all that well, as well as a yellow squash and a nasturtium. Wood chips were added around them to help retain moisture some.

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#NorthFencePlot

The #NorthFencePlot is home to many of the tomato transplants that are all doing well. This was thick with wood chips and several times sowed with beet seeds; pulling back the mulch to put in the seeds. Again the birds kicked it back over hunting for grubs and other bugs. It was mostly raked off so some of those seeds are popping up where the wood chips ended up. Now there are  some zinnias finally appearing along the fence where they were scratched into the improved soil minus the wood chips. The bricks were holding down the wire trashcans when the tomatoes were babies and needed some shelter; just haven’t bothered to move them.

The #RaisedBed still has some cabbages doing okay. The chicken wire has done little to thwart the white butterflies as they can navigate the wire easily. I see them in there all of the time. Some are more affected by chomping than others.

Popcorn rows between and aside the cabbages and some sweet potato slips put in the upper right area where leaf mulch was topped over the soil. The lower right had some cold-compost put over it and all kinds of things are volunteering there. Some will get transplanted when they get big enough.

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#NorthFacingFrontYard

Seems to be taking forever, but in time, it will become greener and greener; this season and hopefully long term as well. I find myself almost jealous when I visit images of Bealtaine Cottage and see how lush and vibrant her patch of heaven is; but, after all, she is in Ireland where there is so much more rain.

I wait with bated breath, but nature does things as she sees fit. All in due time. I can only try to help.

Water seems to be everything.

Well I for one will listen to the wisdom of Masanobu Fukuoku and do my best to green this little part of the desert. Maybe the water will come back if enough of us do.

The time has come and gone to get started, so let’s not waste any more of it.

If Humanity can regain its original kinship with nature, we should be able to live in peace and abundance. Seen through the eyes of modern civilization, however, this life of natural culture must appear to be monotonous and primitive, but not to me…

…We must realize that both in the past and today, there is only one “sustainable” course available to us. We must find our way back to true nature… pg. 16 ~ Sowing Seeds in the Desert ~ Masanobu Fukuoku

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Fig tree

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Plum tree

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Chaste tree in bloom. The bees love it.

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#2SquashPit planted with #ThreeSisters

Some of this had to be resown, hence the various heights of the popcorn. Not all of the squashes germinated but there are some extras on the #3SquashPit that will eventually be transplanted to here.

I’m not a big fan of sweet corn, and it doesn’t store all that well. Popcorn I love and it can be ground into meal to use for baking cornbread and stored.

I’m still reluctant to use external inputs because there is not really any telling if there is herbicide/pesticide residue that will contaminate the organic nature of what I hope to achieve, in the long run it isn’t really sustainable/regenerative and it isn’t what I am being lead to believe is the best way overall. Transportation and money are issues as well. For now, I work with what I have and can find locally and am trying to stick as much as possible to the Fukuoku method.

We’ll see. We’ll see. All in due time.

 

 

Bob’s You Uncle

Writing a post here has been under-inspiring since it seems that all of the efforts to accomplish a food forest (of sorts) here in the Southeastern corner of Arizona, USA shows so little impact over the short term and therefore little to talk about.

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Clover doing well in a shady spot

I have, however come to the solid conclusion that bringing in outside inputs is futile and a waste of money, aside from the wonderful leaves my neighbor contributed last fall; which, by the way were free save the exchange of tomatoes come harvest.

Leaves seem to be the pièce de résistance; the resource of most importance.

He had so much, and combined with what I had, it amounted to enough to spread some over things and corral the rest in a big bin to decompose.

Overwinter, I utilized , liquid gold, (urine), to accelerate the decomposition of the leaves in the bin. By the time Spring rolled around, the bin leaves were a wonderful, nearly broken down mass of wonderful, dark, rich humus. The leaves atop of things were nowhere near as well decomposed. They did seem to add to the quality of the soil underneath them, but not to any great degree. The bin leaves were simply wonderful. I did not turn the leaves at all. They just sat there all Winter getting rained on, watered when I thought about it and urine was dumped over them from time to time.

The bagged goods and straw have only been of value for pathways. There is just so little moisture in the air and it rains so infrequently, that it doesn’t have anything to hold into the soil or use to break itself down with before it crumbles into little else than dust that blows away. Wood chips don’t blow away as much as they simply DO NOT breakdown well.  Fine for paths and possibly over things to help keep from having weeds.

Straw I’m pretty sure brought in herbicides and I just read lately that it is a preferred habitat for slugs.

So, the more I read, and the more I practice, practice, practice, I am being lead to the Masanobu Fukuoka, “One Straw Revolution” direction of things…

After The One-Straw Revolution was published in English, Mr. Fukuoka traveled to Africa, India, Southeast Asia, Europe and the United States.  His interest turned to rehabilitating the deserts of the world using his natural farming techniques. This work is described in detail in Sowing Seeds In The Desert (2012).  Mr. Fukuoka is also the author of The Natural Way of Farming and The Road Back to Nature.  In 1988 he received the Magsaysay Award, often referred to as the “Nobel of Asia,” for Public Service. Sowing Seeds in the Desert by Masanobu Fukuoka – Chelsea Green

…as well as the Will Bonsall‘s philosophy of “no external inputs” and growing your own compost.

Will Bonsall’s Essential Guide to Radical, Self-Reliant Gardening: Innovative Techniques for Growing Vegetables, Grains, and Perennial Food Crops with Minimal Fossil Fuel and Animal Inputs

As a vegan, Will consumes no animal products. He enjoys fruits, vegetables, leafy greens, and whole grain products.  His gardens are filled with a variety of crops.  Animal manure is out of the question for Will as he feels that relying on cow manure is tying in with a system where farmers are raising crops to feed animals in a cycle which depletes the food that should be grown for human consumption.  Only green manure is used at Khadigar Farm. Will also is in opposition to farmers focusing on growing their food primarily for markets.  He feels that food should be grown for a self-sufficient lifestyle.

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Green ‘ground cover’, clover

Clover is wonderful. It can be tall or short. This is short, White Dutch clover being grown mainly to add to the value of a sitting area but it also is a flowering plant that the bees love. It requires regular irrigation, so not so wise in the desert. It does much better in less than direct Sun to even shade. It’s a nitrogen fixer, so I let it live among growing things as well.

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Squash Pit, buried paper/organic matter

If you’ve never heard of a squash pit then you might be thinking “but squash have seeds, not pits!”. True, true, but check out this fun video.

I have also decided that burying things is a better strategy than carbon-type mulches over things. So, instead of trying to make compost with all of the resources available, much of it gets buried in things like Hugelkultur or Squash Pits. The above pictured pit was planted with popcorn, (the first sown seeds only yielded one stalk, so it was resown), squash and some bean seeds that were in a jar I thought were from a friend. I think they were garbanzo beans from a bag I opened thinking I would cook and didn’t. They popped right up, so whatever works. It’s all biomass if nothing else. At this point, it’s all about growing/utilizing things that will add to building soil. I had to resow the squashes too. One came up with the first sowing, now the rest are starting to show.

Hugelkultur are no-dig raised beds with a difference. They hold moisture, build fertility, maximize surface volume and are great spaces for growing fruit, vegetables and herbs. Hugelkultur, pronounced Hoo-gul-culture, means hill culture or hill mound.

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Excess seeds broadcast to sprout for green cover; lettuce

Last Spring lettuce was grown in the #NorthFencePlot to little avail. It grew well enough, but was all very bitter. It was left as biomass. A few were left to bolt for saving seeds. They are tiny and hard to harvest, so I just crumpled up the debris and rubbed it all over the #2NarrowRaisedBed. It’s popping up nicely for a green cover. This was originally filled with terrible bagged goods that nothing would grow in. Most of it was scooped out into the path; the finer stuff was left in. The newly growing green things will add to the continuing breakdown of the woody matter over time.

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Buckwheat; another green ground cover/chop and drop

Buckwheat is behaving just as it was described to do. It sprouts almost anywhere, grows very quickly and can stand the heat. It is being sown wherever there is a bare patch of ‘dirt’ for a green cover crop/chop and drop. It will self sow in some climates. We’ll wait and see if it will here. It has been broadcast twice now, so some is flowering already.

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Volunteers sprouting in this compost material

This material was from a compost heap that broke down rather nicely over winter. It was well lasagna-ed with everything I could get my hands on at the time; kitchen scraps, debris from last season, cardboard, paper, weeds…

Apparently, it didn’t get ‘hot’ as now things are sprouting/volunteering and I’m a gonna just let them have at it to see what comes of it. Again, more ground cover/biomass if nothing else.

Here is a great article found this week to help improve methods of no-till strategies:

Top Three Guiding Principles to Organic, No-Till Farming

1. Soil is Boss. Ways to treat the boss:

2. Water is EVERYTHING. Ways to bring more water and life into your land, without tapping underground water sources:

3. Observe your land. Ways to observe the land:

And another about utilizing compost as mulch, which is basically what I’m doing with the beautiful, dark, rich leaf mulch from the bin that overwintered:

Can Compost Be Used As Mulch: Information On Using Compost As Garden Mulch  …Using compost as garden mulch gives all the benefits of regular, non-organic mulches and adds the bonus of nutrients being constantly leached into the soil below. As the rain runs through the compost, micro amounts of nitrogen and carbon are washed downward, constantly improving the soil…”

And finally, here is a very fun video with a real character describing Masanobu Fukuoka‘s methods of growing food with the least intervention; “Do Nothing” meaning let nature work her magic and only do what nature would:
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MickeyMouser and Lucy (Mini) in their #HighriseLoftApartment under a tree, doing the no-till (it’s time to eat), do nothing method.

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Chop and drop yellow, tall clover under the Apricot tree.

So, Bob’s your uncle! That’s what the plan is now.

Happy No-Till Gardening to you all.

For more images of the processes:

#SquashPit (album on Facebook page)

#Hugelkultur (album on Facebook page)

Freedom To Create

 

Retherford history5

Easter with dresses made by mom. Me on the left. My handsome father and two sisters.      I was a middle child.

 

I wanted to be an interior decorator since it wasn’t going to be possible to become a fine artist, as far as I could tell. It turned out that decorating would be mostly about selling things. I wasn’t really any good at selling, unless I was passionate about what I was selling. The passion was in the design end of it, but that far from satisfied employers.

“You know what your trouble is?”

“I just don’t understand. You have such a good command of the English language.”

“Are you still working on that one?”

“Just give them anything. Anything you put together is going to be better than anything they might do.”

“People don’t like you.”

The last comment came almost immediately after one of my clients had come in and sat right in front of me, with my fellow workers looking on, to rave about how happy they were with what I had done for them and just how much they really liked working with me.

The trouble was, I couldn’t stand for someone who thought they knew better than me about what motivated me telling me how to do things. And that particular boss had all of the other salespeople by the nose, but couldn’t quite catch me and it infuriated her.

Money was never the motivator. Freedom was. Freedom to create. It was the sheer act of creating that delivered me to a zone of utter euphoria. As a very young girl, I spent countless hours alone in the fields behind our house dragging things around to create virtual communities for my friends and family. It was all in my head, of course, because even then, “People didn’t like me”.

I didn’t care much though. I liked me. I didn’t think so for a very long time because society forces one to think that if one doesn’t have countless friends, they don’t really matter. What I discovered eventually was that I truly enjoyed being in my own mind, and, for the most part, being with others, crippled that some.

Turns out, I am an extreme introvert. I do love other people and enjoy them immensely; however, interaction exhausts me. I have to crawl back into isolation and recover. And creativity allows me to regain my life force before, during and after such interactions. Any kind of creativity.

One of the first JOBS, (four letter word), that I truly enjoyed was as the Customer Service Manager of a well respected furniture store. I found my life-long BFF at that job, which only put the frosting on the cake.

I took that job after I had a run in with the owner of the same store while I was trying my hand at selling. He didn’t like my performance with a customer he had been hawking me working with, (I knew he was watching and I am NOT a performer), and cornered me later to tell me how to do it better. I watched him pick up that same customer and send them out the door exasperated after having had him use every trick in the book to try to work them.

I wasn’t impressed. During his badgering me, he looked at me and said, “I don’t think you like what I am saying.”

My friend later said, “You don’t have to say a thing. It’s written all over your face.”

So, to preempt what I thought would lead to eventual firing, I saw an opening and asked to be transferred.

I really loved the customer service job. It was mostly paperwork, which I really didn’t like all that much, but it was also schmoozing vendors and customers, (selling just the same), but on a whole other level. And it was creating systems that allowed for the whole thing to run more smoothly and getting things in order, which I still love to do.

Creating. That’s the key to my happiness. Any kind of creating.

After years and years of running in the squirrel’s cage, I finally found a way to get off and out of the world that would rob your very soul. Now I am peacefully planting food and moving things around, creating things and putting things in order; just as I have always wanted to do. And it matters not one iota that I don’t have fancy schmancy things or the latest greatest. In fact, it is far more fulfilling to see what can be made of whatever is on hand. Every time an appliance fails, I try to figure out a way not to need it.

All I need is this, (the freedom and ability to create my own world):

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#NorthFacingFrontYard

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Trash to treasure

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Before…

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…and after

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Before…

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…and on it’s way to after

The time and inclination to build a #SquashPit.

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No cost, resources rescued from garden centers wherever they might be found.

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#5HugelBed; nothing goes to waste.

Supportive ‘friends’ along the way..

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The joys of nature and purple.

I hope you are doing what you love and having all the freedom you need to do your own creating, whatever that might be.

 

In Alphabetical Order

So, I said the other day that I plan to only grow a few things; things I eat on a regular basis. I then sat down to compose a list of those things, and it grew and grew; 28 items so far.

Artichoke
Beans (Tepary)
Beets
Black Cumin (Black Seed)
Broccoli
Brussels Sprouts
Cabbage
Cantaloupe
Celery
Chamomile
Chard
Chives
Cilantro
Corn
Cucumbers
Dandelion
Fennel
Garlic
Lovage
Onions
Peppers
Potatoes
Spinach
Squash
Sweet Potatoes
Tomatoes
Turmeric
Watermelon

So much for keeping things simple.

Some things aren’t so much of a ‘regular basis’, but are included in my repertoire or are things I want to eat. I don’t eat celery, per se, but have just learned that celery juice can aid digestion and might be of benefit to keeping migraines at bay; which I think to be an issue of low hydrochloric acid production that compromises breaking down and metabolizing nutrients in the stomach before reaching the intestines, (where I think the trouble begins for me).

Purchasing organic celery in quantities large enough to juice is cost prohibitive, so it has been put on the ‘to grow’ list.

Most of the focus this Winter has been on establishing ever more soil-building venues, which are taking myriad shapes and sizes; the main goal being to give the microbial life food to eat. The excerpt below from this article gives a good explanation of the process.

Soil Foodweb

Beneficial vs bad microbes

With the soil structures established, beneficial microbes can thrive, and here’s what they can do for our plants. Bacteria and fungi “mine” the soil particles for minerals. Something that plants can’t do. What they can do, is to turn sunlight, water, and CO2 into sugars, and they use them as currency to exchange them for the minerals with the soil ecosystem. It works roughly like this: the plant makes the sugars, sends lots of them into the roots, and pushes them out into the soil. That sugar feeds bacteria and fungi, which in turn mine the soil for minerals. In most cases, they can’t simply give the minerals to the plant. What comes along, and eats them is the mechanism that releases the stored nutrient right beside the plant root, and what enables the plant to get them.

Here’s where the good nematodes come in. Bacteria and fungi feeding nematodes eat those microorganisms, and what comes out the other end is plant food. Exactly what the plant needs, when it needs it, where it is needed, right by the micro-hair of the root. There are other little critters that help with that process – amoeba, protozoa, and micro-arthropods. They also have the role of opening the micro-fertiliser bags right beside the plant. ~

Auld Lang Syne

We’re at the end of 2016 now and it’s the day for ringing in 2017.

It’s a good day for summing up a year’s worth of efforts to build a “Simple Life of Abundance and Peace”.

2 cent Christmas Tree

2 cent Christmas Tree

I’m ever grateful for the freedom to pursue this dream I’ve long held; having basic needs met and time to do things they way I’ve always wanted to.

It might be fun to have no end of money and be able to ‘buy’ all the things that could accomplish the ultimate goals more quickly; but I think, the best part of it all is the journey and the challenges that near-poverty offers.

I’m rich as far as I can tell.

Of course, a big part of the dream is to have the ability to walk out into the property around my home and be able to pluck the foods to eat each day. Living in a high desert, there are many challenges toward that goal. A big part of what was done this year was to create as many soil building strategies that resources available to me would allow. Having a #GoodNeighbor offered external inputs that were unexpected and allowed to increase this goal more quickly. Another goal is to not need external inputs, but that is a very, very big challenge indeed.

Leaf bin from leaves gifted by my #GoodNeighbor

Leaf bin from leaves gifted by my #GoodNeighbor

My #GoodNeighbor gifted so many leaves that I was able to completely cover the #1HugelkulturBed and make this big bin. For some reason, most of his leaves fell before mine did, so once mine fell, I had enough to cover the #RaisedBed and the #NorthFencePlot, all of which are in the #NorthFacingFrontYard. The #ScragglyTreeBed got a layer as well because, after all, it’s right under the main leaf dropper.

Oleander debris from my #GoodNeighbor in the #AlleywayProject

Oleander debris from my #GoodNeighbor in the #AlleywayProject

My #GoodNeighbor also dropped a huge load of oleander debris from a job he did nearby. He said it would be a lot. I had no idea it was to be so much. I distributed it all along the #AlleywayProject. It ended up being about 12″ thick before it started its breakdown. I think once the leaves dry and drop, I may re-corral the sticks for another purpose. Green, they are easy enough to lop, but once dry, too hard; and there are just too many of them to lop at this stage anyway. I did lop them down enough to get them laid here, but that was enough.

So much was accomplished this year. As I look back at images, I realize just how hard I work to not work, (a ‘real’ job). This is exactly the kind of work I’ve always wanted to do, just providing for myself the best I can.

Part of the “Simple Life of Abundance and Peace” requires that radically simple solutions to things be the modus operandi. As appliances are wearing out and beyond repair, they are being replaced with simpler ways of doing things. This usually means harder and taking longer. A big part of simplicity is to do things in ways that create far less of an impact on the environment, waste far less of precious resources and contribute more to bettering community.

Plumbing issues have been with me from the beginning of taking this 1945 built property. They have been being addressed defensively as money just isn’t available ahead of most issues.

This faucet has been a nuisance for a very long time. Things have been under it and beside it to collect drips for several years probably. The metal is so calcified, I’ve been afraid to try to tackle it myself. The #SouthFacingBackYard has been in terrible shape for a long while and has been grating on my nerves to improve it.

Plumbing troubles

Plumbing troubles

#TheCatastrophe fixed

#TheCatastrophe fixed

Once #TheCatastrophe was fixed (new window glass silicon secured into the old frames), work began on the back yard. There was a mess of things up against this window while I waited for the $$$ to put the new glass in. There was a gorilla rack behind two glass doors, timely donated, to keep weather from overtaking the plastic taped to the window frames.

The gorilla rack was relocated under the tree to the right of this window for the kitties #HighriseLoftApartment to sit atop. But, before that could be moved, all kinds of junk had to be moved out and the dirt leveled. Years ago I created an elevated area to plant a peach tree. The peach tree failed and for the life of me, I can’t remember the thinking behind moving all that dirt. Nonetheless, it had to all be moved again. During the dirt moving, leaves were raked, weeds were pulled, Bermuda grass dug out and a bin created to hold it all. The working faucet was farther away, so I turned the calcified one on and that was when the plumbing trouble began, this time. Once the calcification was broken… drip, drip, drip only this time, much faster and more of it. So, out to the main to turn it off. Then to try to assess the trouble. Dig, dig, dig. The pipes were finally exposed and identified. The plumber was grateful and said it would have cost me another hour of his time had I not done that.

So, while the water was turned off and I’ve been waiting for the plumber to find time in his busy Handy Andy schedule, toilet flushing became an issue and it was decided to be the perfect time to start composting my own ‘waste’, rather resource; #Humanure. Remember that no external inputs goal? Well, there we go, further along the road less traveled; resources from within.

#HumanureBin and other composting

#HumanureBin and other composting

And, thanks in large part to my #GoodNeighbor, I had lots and lots of leaves to use to get things started.

#HumanureBin

#HumanureBin

An album was created on the First Do No Harm Front Yard Farmacy Facebook page, here for how the bin was built. I researched it and of course have the book, The Humanure Handbook. Here is a great page with all the how-tos, why-fors and what-nots directly from the author of the book if you want a short cut. Be sure to click on the links therein. Great stuff. And here is a wonderful essay on rural hygiene, written in the latter 1800’s, digitized and made into a pdf. Fascinating stuff and to realize that composting humanure was the answer at that time to the trouble that was a cesspool. Mr. Good For Trade, of course, came along and over took any useful enterprise to capitalize on those same needs for profit in spite of what it might do to the betterment of community or the environment. Not much changes with time, unfortunately.

Before the faucet trouble, there was the demise of the washing machine; one that was my mother’s, pre-owned when she bought it inherited when she died, then used by me since 1997. It had a good long life. It was at least 30 years old.

I have been hand-washing clothes ever since and it does present some interesting challenges. I’m trying to will an old fashioned ‘hand wringer’ to myself to make things a little easier.

Hand washing clothes in a tub in the tub

Hand washing clothes in a tub in the tub

Another of the goals started this year was the #MosaicFloorProject. I had been collecting tiles here and there. At one time, I was bringing home one or two at a time to see what I might like to install throughout the house. Once it became clear that that would not likely ever be in the budget, the mosaic idea came to the front. This has been a goal since I moved in here 13 years ago now. Finally. I got this far when I realized I should put an ad in our local trader to see if I could get enough to do the entire house. I stopped at this point to wait to see what came my way so that they could all be worked together for the greater look.

#MosaicFloorProject

#MosaicFloorProject

Two people responded to my ad. This was one collection and another came later.

Free tiles for the #MosaicFloorProject

Free tiles for the #MosaicFloorProject

Originally those same tiles were stacked in the carport, but with all of the defunct appliances accumulating, I needed this area to stage them for getting them off premises. So, the tiles were moved to the front of the house.

Clutter Busting old appliances and junk

Clutter Busting old appliances and junk to get it off premises

A lot has been done this past year. These are just a few of the more recent things.

As the year comes to a close, it’s fun to think about what’s ahead.

We’ve been having what seem to be more rain than I can recall from past Winters. So wonderful. And it all started right after the leaves had fallen and needed it to weigh them down and get their decomposition started.

Lots of rain so far this Winter

Lots of rain so far this Winter

Rain, rain, rain

Rain, rain, rain

That makes me so happy, because it means that the things put into place for soil building will likely be further along than they might have without it.

All throughout the year, I’ve been doing things to practice food forest concepts. In a forest, things just land where they do and nature takes over.

Some cilantro debris was tossed over the fence from some that had grown, turned to seeds and got wet over Summer. It volunteered and is growing as we speak, right next to one of the three baby Italian Cypresses that were planted equidistant apart in the #ParkwayProject.

Volunteer cilantro in the #ParkwayProject

Volunteer cilantro in the #ParkwayProject

Likely while carrying seed heads around, a Brassica volunteered at the West end of the #RaisedBed that had Sweet Potatoes last year, 2015-16; see header image on the main page. There was arbor mulch buried here that same year after building a little #2HugelBed right before it; so there is composting material under the surface here.

Volunteer Brassica making it in the shade

Volunteer Brassica making it in the shade

Black Cardinal

Black Cardinal

Today I spotted this critter in the #HackberryTree in the #SouthFortyTriangleLot. It looked just like a cardinal to me, though a little trimmer and black. Sure enough, there is a bird often referred to as a Black Cardinal. I take it as a sign of unusual and wonderful things to come. Apparently it is only ever seen in the Southwest. Lucky me. It’s the first time I’ve ever seen it. I see cardinals all the time and they are a treat as well.

Part of the value of living this kind of lifestyle is that it makes one feel less vulnerable to the “powers that be”. So many ugly things seemed to have happened this past year and it doesn’t seem to be relenting. My hope is that enough of us will adopt this kind of lifestyle to make a difference. If ‘they’ don’t own us by our need for sustenance, they really can’t manipulate us the way that they have. At least that’s how I see it.

As I’ve mentioned here before, most of my ability to do this now hinges on Social Security income. Of course, ‘they’ are threatening to steal that away from us too. I’m going to adopt Scarlett O’Hara’s perspective, “I can’t think about that right now. If I do, I’ll go crazy. I’ll think about that tomorrow.”― Margaret Mitchell, Gone with the Wind

Little Red-Haired Girl, my constant sidekick

Little Red-Haired Girl, my constant sidekick

For now, I’m happy that my Little Red-Haired Girl is still with me. She got very feeble this year but she is a trooper and I feel that it isn’t my right to decide when she should go, it is hers. She’s my joy and I will love her just the way she is and do everything in my power to make her life as good as it can be.

Little Red-Haired Girl starting out the night beside me on the bed

Little Red-Haired Girl starting out the night beside me on the bed

I pile her up in dog bedding right next to me. Middle of the night she wants out for a pee and then she spends some time on her mat on the floor. Sometimes I lay her on my chest and we sleep like that for awhile. If she’s having a bad night, it seems to calm her to be on me; she relaxes and falls right to sleep. I love her to the moon and back. She’s a hot mess, but I do as little intervention as I can so as not to traumatize her.

Mickey and Mini (Lucy) are never far apart. Mickey has gotten to be quite a large feller. Lucy is a very little kitty; she’s 2, he’s 1.

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Gertie keeping track of me

Gertie is in pretty good shape. She can’t hear worth a darned. If I call her, she goes opposite of my voice, even if I whistle. So, when we’re out together, she keeps a close eye on me. It’s a food thing. I usually have to go up and tap her if I want her to come in.

Whole Food Plant-Based Eating

Whole Food Plant-Based Eating = No animals

All in all, it was a very productive year for me. Still not providing my own food to eat, but have great hope for the future. I’ve decided that I’m not going to try to grow a bunch of exotic things or too many things in general; but rather just focus on the things I eat regularly. I do have two avocado trees that volunteered from seeds in compost that I have been babying along for two seasons now. They will need a greenhouse to keep going. That is a goal; a poly-tunnel at the least.

I found a bean that grows well in this area and will practice with it next Monsoon season, during which time they are supposed to be planted. Tepary Beans, grown in this area with great success, actually won’t grow right if they get too much water. Aren’t plants just the most amazing things.

First grown in the Southwest during ancient times, tepary beans (Phaseolus acutifolius) mature quickly and are tolerant of the low desert heat, drought and alkaline …

Mostly what I eat is beans, rice, sweet potatoes, potatoes, Brussels sprouts, onions, garlic, tomatoes and avocados. Of course there are other spices like turmeric I’d love to figure out how to grow and herbs like Chamomile. I do need to think about greens, but they too are a rather tricky thing here. Since Brussels sprouts are so, so good for us and a favorite of mine, I am determined to figure out how to grow them.

The staples are what I will focus on for now. It would be nice to be able to grow a grain. My #GoodNeighbor was talking about how he’d like to grow wheat. Imagine if each neighborhood set up a string of growing venues to help each other out.

You can solve all the world’s problems in a garden ~ Geoff Lawton

I believe that and I’m going to spend my energy trying to will that for the world this coming year. The only other ‘resolution’ I may project is to quit buying Payday candy bars to torment myself about eating processed sugar with. Those and Cheez-Its are a struggle to pass up at the grocery. The thing that helps to keep me from purchasing them is that they site *Palm oil as a possible ingredient. That and the ‘real cheese’ are enough to make me stop that unsustainable, foolish, unfriendly thing. Hole forests are being razed to grow palm oil trees. How can I possibly be complicit with that not to mention the horror that is a dairy!

Time to start planning for Spring, because it’s closer than we think!

Happy New Year!

dscn4794

Oh, What’s Occurin?

Involuntary radical simplicity

Involuntary Radical Simplicity

My mother raised three girls all by herself. Even when our father was a small part of our lives, he was a chronic alcoholic military man who was seldom home and when he was, he was not available; that’s being kind.

Mom and her girls, homemade matching dresses for Easter

Mom and her girls in homemade matching dresses for Easter

She did a wonderful job, sacrificing everything for us. She worked at the military base,  about 5 miles from our house. The three of us were about a year and a half apart in ages, give or take. I was in the middle. We lived in this little “cracker box house”, (our mother called it) from the time I was about 5 until I was 13 and then we moved up to a much larger, ‘farmhouse’ on the main street where people of better means owned homes. We rented. There was a lot of land around it that had been a farm and most of it had long been sold off, but we just rented the house. It had been vacant for years, but somehow it became available and our mother lived in it until the day she died, about 30 years. She loved it; it was her American dream come true.

Mom's Farm House

Mom’s Little Farm House

Whenever I go through California, I always make sure to visit certain old stomping grounds and home. This  image was from a trip I made about 5 years ago. The house used to be white with yellow trim.

We thought we had moved into a mansion. It was so much bigger than our little cracker box and had so many more amenities; forced air heating, a basement, two big bedrooms, lot and lots of cupboards and closets, a laundry room, breakfast nook, a real dining room, and a detached two car garage. It came furnished with antiques. It had a fireplace too, but our mother would never use it.

California Two Story

California Two Story

When I finally was able to buy my own home, it was a two-story with a fireplace, which was definitely used. The thinking of the time was to buy as big as one could afford. It really did feel like living in a mansion, especially rambling around mostly by myself. It had 4 bedrooms, a family room, living room, 2 1/2 baths and plenty of planting opportunities.

I started immediately, tearing things apart. The big ball in the middle of the front yard was a massive olive tree that had been groomed with pom poms that were completely unmanageable, so I cut it down to a stump and let it grow out until it could be groomed into this ball.

Working at Home Depot at the time, originally as their “Design Homer” (store-wide decorating consultant for customers) and eventually in the hardware and garden departments (when I finally got fed up enough with the abuses), every extra dollar was spent on plants and tools so that I could become as independent as possible.

The neighbor behind the ball and to the left was an extended family who had every available piece of their property, including the sloped parkway you can see, planted in food bearing things. I was in awe and wanted to someday accomplish the same. It was my first encounter with permaculture/food forest thinking. The other three neighbors, the one directly in front of me and the ones on either side of me were unfriendly to all of my endeavors. This was a little bit of an upper-crusty area and they all seemed to think that they lived in Beverly Hills. They were inclined to call the City to complain whenever I had garden amendments sitting in the driveway longer than they wanted them to be.

When I went back that same time I visited my mother’s house, the new owners had taken out everything tall, green and long-lived and put in sod; including an avocado tree, a giant fig tree, many many drought tolerant shrubs, 20 year old tall, tall wax leaf privet shrubs lining the biggest part of three sides, a beautiful Jacaranda tree and so on. They tried to groom the stump back into pom poms. I guess what they all wanted was to be able to have the local ‘landscaper’ come do all their homes on the same day and for it to just be blowing and mowing.

New owners take over

New owners take over

That house set me free, in more ways than one. It was a great investment. I managed to live there for six years, 3 of which were unemployed. It freed me in my thinking and gave me a platform from which to launch my entrepreneurial tendencies.

I was clever enough to get out just far enough ahead of the bubble bursting, but a little sooner than I might should have; but you do what you have to do.

That house was The American Dream realized for me, but I had to leave it.

It’s very hard to know what is to come with the changing of the guards of this once thought of as great, America. I have an optimistic attitude in spite of a worrying nature; I can always, always see a light at the end of the tunnel. I think it is the worrying nature that bodes well for that as it forces me to analyze continually and in so doing, I really am forming a bigger picture and not a narrow perspective. There is always hope in a bigger picture.

That’s not to say that the worrying doesn’t take its tole on my body and soul. But thanks to Gavin and Stacey and Elf the movie I can escape into oblivion every once in awhile.

And, kind of like Goldilocks, I’m finally where everything is “just right”; a house that is a good size for me and my fur family, enough land around it to plant food, neighbors who support my endeavors, a City that doesn’t complain and even lets me work from my home doing sewing for the community, and amenities close enough to walk to.

Plumbing Troubles

Plumbing Troubles

Even with the challenges of home ownership, it’s all worth it. Lately, I’ve had to finally resolve a long standing plumbing issue and it’s all unfolding nicely, just like things always do. It has made me realize more of what it means to practice #VoluntaryRadicalSimplicity, thinking more wisely about water and waste processing, how important human relationships are and the value of living in the moment.

The City workers were great to help me and recommended the young man who will be solving my plumbing troubles.

Nickels, dimes and quarters saving the day again.

Nickels, dimes and quarters saving the day again.

I make a habit of not spending change, but rather putting it away for a ‘rainy day’. It has saved me many a time. This time it turns out to be almost exactly what I need to get this plumbing job taken care of. Intelligent design.

This ‘trouble’ has also made me remember that I have a great deal more sway over how my life turns out than sometimes I believe I do. Several years ago when I was still trying to create income, I returned to my training as a decorator/designer and placed an ad to work on Craigslist. It resulted in doing work for a wonderful lady whom I referred to later as The Star Client  in a post I wrote about the experience.

The Star Client

The Star Client

When this plumbing trouble arrived, I realized that I still have that to depend on and that nothing is ever as gloomy as it appears. I placed the ad again.

Being a worrier by nature, but also having an optimistic bent, I am listening to everything about these new changes in our world with renewed intensity and am going to choose to believe that as bad as it seems, we really do have a lot more control over things than we might think and it can end up having a beneficial effect.

One thing is for sure, I think it has caused a huge ripple that is forcing more of us to wake up and we are definitely talking about things in a more meaningful way.

That can’t be bad.

If you haven’t seen Gavin and Stacey, I recommend you check out the series from the library and watch it from the start. It’s hilarious and all about people finding a way to get along, in spite of, or even because of, all of their very obvious differences. You may think you need captions at first. It seems that they are speaking a foreign language. You’ll get in the hang of it if you stick with it.

“Oh, what’s occurin?”

That’s Welsh for “Hey, what’s up?”