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)

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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 the 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!

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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?”

Home Sweet Home

It’s coming on Christmas; the time of year we seem to value home the most. Growing up, I was referred to as a “homebody” and the most likely one in our family to have children. Truth is, I was and still am more likely just an introvert. I do love home, but as much because of how it allows me the security to be an introvert as that I am any kind of a worthy homemaker. I loathe housekeeping, aside from the interior design aspect of it; which does require cleaning on occasion to effect the results I want to see in that respect, (most of my career was spent in helping others create the homes they wanted). Cleaning as a rule is so much vanity; more dust settles as soon as the rag leaves the surface. Talk about insanity: “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”. ~ Albert Einstein

I am aware that “Cleanliness is next to Godliness”, but there are so many more interesting things to do. I got that from my mother, who also, was not much interested in having an ideal home, but rather loved her independent activities of choice. This is not her home. We were visiting a friend of hers, sometime in the 80’s. That was me on the far right. My older sister and I had no children; our younger sister went on to have four. The oldest of hers on the left, ‘grew up’ with us.

My Mother and her favorite pass time, her family

My Mother and her favorite pass time, her family

Before my mother died, she had me pulling weeds in her little patch of vegetables. I didn’t have a home of my own, so I would play in the dirt around her home whenever I was there; which was often. Once upon a time I brought her a gallon sized container of ‘Red Apple’; which over the years, spread all over her yard and eventually was pinched and planted to create a screen of sorts around her front porch, growing up wire fencing attached to the vertical supports.

Red Apple Succulent Flower

Red Apple Succulent Flower credit: (jjharrison89@facebook.com)

My first tiny apartment had a terrace full of potted things, which I watered with a hose attached to the kitchen sink; mostly succulents. That was California, where succulents can live outdoors most of the year. Not so, here in Arizona. I have to bring mine in and out of the garage during the winter or they turn to mush.

So my Home Sweet Home is now allowing me the opportunity to engage in independent activities of choice, like my mother did. And those activities have now been defined to be gardening, sewing, animals and health related activities.

Free tiles for installing a mosaic pattern throughout my home sweet home

Free tiles for installing a mosaic pattern throughout my Home Sweet Home

I do care about the appearance of my home, but it is a slow process getting it to where I want it to be; mostly because I have chosen to have more free time than money, per se. These tiles were free to me from a man who saw an ad I placed in our local trader. Now the fun begins.

This last week was spent ‘redesigning’ the back yard some. When I first moved here, I did some things there that make little sense to me now; moving dirt around. Dirt is being moved around again to level things out for more planting opportunities.

After clearing out the 'messes' and shifting the dirt. More shifting yet to be done.

After clearing out the ‘messes’ and shifting the dirt. More shifting yet to be done.

Sunday my neighbor brought over all of the leaves he raked from his yard. This same neighbor continues to bring me resources as he gets them. He apparently does work for others. He’s the same one who brought the oleander debris that you can see in the last post. He and his girlfriend are very fond of my tomatoes, ;).

#MyNeighbor bringing me his leaves

#MyNeighbor bringing me all of his leaves

The first big City trash can full of leaves went to #1HugelkulturBed

Stray pieces of wire fencing keeping the leaves from leaving; #1HugelkulturBed

#MyNeighbor used my huge City trashcan to deliver the first load and it all went on the #1HugelkulturBed.

The next several batches went to fill up two wire rounds that were positioned at the shady side of the #RaisedBed; performing double duty as a partial cover for the bed over Winter and as planting mediums come Spring.

Two wire rounds full of leaves

Two wire rounds full of leaves

Soil building in progress

Soil building in progress

Not much is going on that is visible to the eye. A few brassicas are trying valiantly to grow, but mostly there is soil building going on. Winter is a good time for this and the strategies also yield habitats for overwintering critters as well.

Volunteer radishes and beets are managing on the #4HugelBed in the #SouthFortyTriangleLot

Volunteer radishes (pictured) and beets are managing on the #4HugelBed in the #SouthFortyTriangleLot

Next fall I shall plant more radishes and beets as they seem to be able to brave the relative cold here in Arizona, at least for a time; and that time helps to send their substantial roots down for breaking up compacted soil also helping to build the microbiome.

AliceInWonderlandishness

A hint of Spring to come. #AliceInWonderlandishness

Spring is closer than we think. It won’t be long before it will be time to start some seeds indoors.

People often comment that something about my Home Sweet Home makes them think of Alice in Wonderland. I think it’s the colors that I favor; but there are other things, like this rabbit and a big collection of teapots and cups and saucer that I have accrued over the years.

Whatever makes your home yours, I hope you have a wonderful holiday season and that you are engaging in independent activities of choice. It took me a long time to find my way to here where I am able to do just that. I’m so happy that the time has come.

Reindeer waiting for me to paint him (for years and years and years)

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer waiting for me to paint him (for years and years and years)

I was commissioned by Home Depot (twice; two different stores) to design and paint a Santa in a sleigh and two reindeer for a Christmas display. This reindeer escaped with me, unpainted. He is jig saw cut out of plywood and has endured for at least 15 years now. The other two sets ended up in their dumpsters. 😦

Morale of the story: There’s no place like home sweet home for the holidays.

Voluntary Radical Simplicity

As much out of necessity as choice, Voluntary Radical Simplicity continues progressing at First Do No Harm Front Yard Farmacy.

Our local Safeway sells my favorite bread, Food For Life’s Ezekiel Sesame for, regular price $5.99; $5.49 with club card. If one has the wherewithal to drive 50 miles to Tucson, it can be found at Trader Joes for $3.69 a loaf, fresh, unfrozen, every day. We all complain of Safeway’s local gouging. I don’t have the wherewithal, nor desire, but I do have a friend who is pretending to be a vagabond while he decides where he next wants to plant himself. Sometimes it is convenient for me to ‘order’ it from him as he travels there and back; two people not driving the same distance separately is a way to conserve energy, not to mention money.

What is Voluntary Simplicity?

Voluntary simplicity, or simple living, is a way of life that rejects the high-consumption, materialistic lifestyles of consumer cultures and affirms what is often just called ‘the simple life’ or ‘downshifting.’[1] The rejection of consumerism arises from the recognition that ordinary Western-style consumption habits are degrading the planet; that lives of high consumption are unethical in a world of great human need; and that the meaning of life does not and cannot consist in the consumption or accumulation of material things. Extravagance and acquisitiveness are accordingly considered an unfortunate waste of life, certainly not deserving of the social status and admiration they seem to attract today. The affirmation of simplicity arises from the recognition that very little is needed to live well – that abundance is a state of mind, not a quantity of consumer products or attainable through them.

I’m very happy that my life is unfolding this way.

According to Keith Farnish, author of Time’s Up: An Uncivilized Solution to a Global Crisis:

“We have been sold The Complexity Myth: the idea that something is only good if it is a product of a complex set of processes, in order that it (or we) can be controlled. We are kept in check by this idea and do not question it because we have forgotten how to live simply; we have been brainwashed to love the world of the complex, and as a result we are prepared to defend the thing that is causing the collapse of the natural world, and our own basic humanity.”

Amazon, about the above mentioned book: Humans have no motivation stronger than survival, yet the culture that dominates “the culture we call Industrial Civilization” has created a set of priorities that value financial wealth, the possession of superfluous goods and short, cheap thrills, above that most basic need. In short, we are prepared to die in order to live a life that is killing us. Time’s Up! is all about changing this. It describes what our actions are doing to the very things on Earth that we depend on for survival, at scales that we rarely contemplate. It arms us with the tools to free us from the culture that has blinded us for centuries, and which will allow us to live lives that will give the Earth, and ourselves, a future. This call-to-action proposes something radical, fundamental, frightening, longterm, exhilarating, and absolutely necessary—something totally uncivilized.

Looks like a good book.

Beautiful Nature

Beautiful Nature

This is the view I get over the fence in the #SouthFortyTriangleLot. Because of the school, it will likely remain virtually unobstructed.

I don’t live in a mud hut. I am far, far from living quite as radically simple as I might should and may yet and I didn’t get to where I am without participating in the above mentioned Industrial Civilization. I think my soul has all along been calling me to simplicity though; because, as is a constant refrain here, I was miserable in it. Miserable, miserable living within the confines of Consumerville.

I worked my career in the high-end home furnishings/window coverings industry. I served mostly rather wealthy folks who could afford the things being sold. I have been in hundreds of homes, most of them huge with two people rattling around in them. “Investments”. I remember going into a 10,000 square foot home and wondering why! Why would anyone want all of that complexity, expense and responsibility.

There was a segment of our city (Southern California) that was devoted to McMansions. Everyone there was trying to out do the other with extravagances; tennis courts, etc. Many lovely people though and it certainly provided a living for me. I soon realized that I didn’t want the things society said I did; I wanted personal freedom to pursue the things I really loved.

So, here I am in Arizona trying to grow food and live as radically simple as I’m able.

Humble Little Abode

Humble Little Abode

My washer went kaput not long ago so I’m rigging up a hand-washing system. I still need a wringer before I can manage things as well as I need to; I’m on the hunt. I guess a new washer can be had for under $300, but it requires electricity and off-the-grid living is a goal here.

My refrigerator did as well, so I purchased one of those little tiny ones for things that have to be kept cold and am trying to utilize other strategies for keeping other food; such as, purchasing daily-ish and trying to grow things I can harvest as needed.

Here’s a great article about how to fashion a root cellar. (I posted it on the Facebook page earlier this week with good reception.)

The most important endeavor for this lifestyle is to figure out how to grow food in a desert. The only thing above that is keeping my Little Red-Haired Girl happy until she decides to leave me.

Little Red-Haired Girl with her handmade 'hoister' on.

Little Red-Haired Girl with her handmade ‘hoister-upper’ on.

The belt around her breast is to help take weight off when she squats to pee. I also help her walk around a little easier by walking with her holding up on the belt. The orange around her middle is how I lift her up from laying. It works perfectly. I slip my fingers under each set of silk-tie bows and lift her straight up until she gets a footing. It was made from a T-shirt, cut into two rectangles, a piece of flannel drapery lining between, quilted diagonally and the four silk tie ends stitched from the bottom up  on each end and tied around her. Orange helps me see her when she struts out on her own.

Living simply involves cooperation with others. My neighbor is happy that I am growing food and is offering trimmings from his own yard and jobs he does.

Lately he asked if I could use some oleander trimmings he was about to have from an upcoming job. He said he would have a lot of them. Boy he wasn’t kidding.

Free resources from a #SupportiveNeighbor

Free resources from a #SupportiveNeighbor

He stacked them on rugs that were there for weed abatement. As I distributed them, I moved the rugs farther down in front of the fence for the back yard.

Oleander mulching the #AlleywayProject

Oleander mulching the #AlleywayProject; #SoilBuilding

The hope is to plant the #AlleywayProject and the #ParkwayProject for a #FoodIsFree thing. Why not plant anything that can be. I read online that oleander breaks down quickly. We’ll see. Most of the soil here is VERY sandy. I’d like to plant grapevines all along the fence for more privacy as well as food.

I lopped this debris as I went along. Still more lopping can be done and will be as time goes by. For now, the blister on my palm forced me to quit.

Lopped down some

Lopped down some

A chipper/shredder would be wonderful, but is that sustainable? You can see by the time stamps on the images that it took me a little over 2 hours from the piles to where it was distributed and lopped. It was good exercise as well. We don’t have to have expensive, gas-using things to do the job where a little patience and fortitude can do the same thing; #VoluntaryRadicalSimplicity.

The dead wood was hard to lop

The dead wood was hard to lop

The dead wood will be used too. Possibly a new Hugelkultur mound somewhere, maybe even where it is. It was too hard to lop. Works better to break it up by hand. I got hungry and ran out of steam at this point.

The goal here at First Do No Harm Front Yard Farmacy is to use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without. And commission as many old, worn out, on-their-last-leg things into the equation as possible.

I placed an ad in our local trader lately and it is working like a charm. This is just a fraction of the tiles one man has for me. I’ll go back for more as he gets them out to where I can easily access them. What a fun way to meet people too.

Another lady called and will bring a load of hers to me in December, her next trip into town.

Free floor tiles for a mosaic project inside the house

Free floor tiles for a mosaic project inside the house

I’m inching my way to the place I want to be. This Thanksgiving I will spend with my vagabond friend, scaring up whatever we can for a nice meal. We often go out scouting for an off the way place open on Thanksgiving Day to commune with others who don’t have large families or other options. This year, I don’t want to leave Little Red-Haired Girl for any length of time.

Nothing like a home full of animals anyway.

Hope you all have a radically simple, sustainable Happy Thanksgiving as well.

Consider the turkey on Thanksgiving. Specifically, consider not eating it

No turkeys will be harmed on this ‘farm’.

**UPDATE**

After posting the latest blog on the website, a reader alarmed me about the toxicity of oleander. I had done research before I offered to take the debris from my neighbor and had been convinced that the toxins compost out of it rather quickly. The key is in how it is composted I now suppose; so I may need to collect the stuff I just put out in the #AlleywayProject to compost differently or have my neighbor reclaim it and take it to the dump. The best way to dispose of oleander is by composting it, I’ve read:


Overview
Oleander contains highly toxic glycosides, and the branches or leaves left over after oleander shrubs have been dug out or pruned should be disposed of properly. Instead of discarding them in your trash, compost the oleander. This safely dispels the toxins and recycles the oleander waste material into a rich garden amendment that can feed your vegetables, flowers and shrubs.
http://www.gardenguides.com/113709-compost-oleander.html

and:

1
Toxicity of Oleander Derived
Compost
James A. Downer and Arthur Craigmill
Results
Fresh leaves and stems of oleander contained up
to 1500ppm. Oleandrin concentration falls rapidly af-
ter the onset of aerobic composting (Figure 1). Decay
of the glycoside is rapid for about 50 days after which it
s rate of decomposition is much reduced. After 300
days, it was undetectable in compost.
Two vegetable crops were studied for potential
uptake of oleandrin. Growth measurements were not
taken however, lettuce grew rapidly, reaching maturity
in less than 60days. Except for a single sample, no
oleandrin was detected in any lettuce plants (Table 1).
Tomatoes required longer to grow and produce a crop.
Tomatoes growing in soil with incorporated oleander
showed symptoms of nitrogen deficiency early in the
test, but recovered, yielding a sufficient crop by the
time of harvest. After approximately 90 days, tomatoes
were harvested, frozen and analyzed for oleandrin. The
fruit were determined to be “clean”. Fruit from the
same vines were subsequently eaten without harm.
Conclusions
Composting is an effective method means of de-
stroying one of the toxic glycosides in oleander. The
composting process causes a rapid decline in oleandrin
concentration and eventually its complete disappear-
ance from the compost. It is hard to determine what a
“safe” level of oleandrin would be for compost, because
compost is not consumed by people. Livestock may
nibble fresh leaves of mulches, but would probably
avoid composted materials. After fifty days, the level
of oleandrin in compost falls to less than 10% of its
original concentration in the feedstock. It would be
most unlikely to cause harm if ingested, because a high
volume of compost would be required to consume a
toxic dose.
It appears from our growth studies that oleandrin
is not transported into plants.
My mind tumbled for quite awhile last night trying to figure out how to continue taking advantage of this debris. Possibly dig a trench and bury it? Pile it higher along the fence footer and barricade it with stakes and cardboard? Any suggestions?
sfgate.com had this to say; which contradicts above study. They cited no studies.

Disposal

Once you’ve pruned the shrub, you need to dispose of the clippings. Unlike other garden clippings, oleander parts should not go into the compost heap. Nothing removes the toxicity from the branches — not cold, rain, heat nor time. People have been poisoned from cooking a hot dog on an oleander skewer and in an interview with “The New York Times,” Dr. Larry J. Thompson, a clinical toxicologist in the College of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, says “even a few leaves falling into a small ornamental pool could poison a dog who lapped water from the pool.” Oleander clippings will contaminate your entire compost and render it unfit and even dangerous for use. Do not burn the clippings, as the smoke from them is also toxic. Instead, load the oleander debris in heavy plastic bags for disposal in a city dump. http://homeguides.sfgate.com/oleander-clippings-toxic-compost-75677.html

 

What’s It All About

I just watched the remake of Alfie, with Jude Law, (checked out at the library). Boy is he hard to look at, ha!

Jude Law in the remake of Alfie

Jude Law in the remake of Alfie

There have been some hair-raising goings-on outside the castle at Elsinore. As the terrified Horatio and Marcellus look on, the ghost of the recently deceased king appears to Prince Hamlet. The spirit beckons Hamlet offstage, and the frenzied prince follows after, ordering the witnesses to stay put. They quickly decide to tag along anyway—it’s not “fit” to obey someone who is in such a desperate state.

So many seem to look to our system of government to solve all our problems, but I am with Geoff Lawton who believes that “All the World’s problems can be solved in a garden.”

Every day  fear seems to be escalating and many people seem to be falling into despair. I have to say that I am alarmed at what is happening myself, but I quell my fear quickly because I KNOW that we all have MUCH more power than we let ourselves believe we do. We also have much more control over just how this all may effect us on a personal level.

Yes, if ‘The Commons’ are privatized and those who seek only wealth have their say, we are probably doomed, we may already be and this will just escalate it; only though, I believe, because we are not personally willing to adopt lifestyles that could very likely put a halt to this awful scenario.

I have been tagging all my comments with #VoluntaryRadicalSimplicity because I think it is akin to boycotting businesses/corporations/TPTB – on steriods. Without the demand for the things that are commodified so that stocks can be sold to gamble, what real power would ‘they’ have over us? Seems to me that most of our troubles are the result of the fantasy that we can all be rich and can ALL have EVERYTHING.

What seems to be at the base of wanting the latest, greatest is personal insecurity with who one is within society at large. Alfie seemed to have been having the same dilemma. It was soon revealed that he was stifling his emotions and that at the core of his ‘womanizing’, he was insecure; difficult to fathom. How hard it must be to be that beautiful and not know why people like you.

Nature volunteering its simplicity and elegance

Nature volunteering simplicity with elegance; Brassicas popping up all over.

Protecting the Brassica volunteers from The Powers That Be; Nature/Nemesis White Butterflies

Protecting the Brassica volunteers from The Powers That Be…Nature/Nemesis White Butterflies; chicken wire tents.

Lately one of my lifelong childhood friends responded to a post I made saying, “I admire your tenacity to be true to your values and not get caught up in the usual mainstream dependence on the almighty dollar. I’ve lived a cushy life, but often feel out of place…like I sh/could live “closer to the earth.”” I responded by saying, “We find our ways slowly but surely.

As a young girl, I was often alone because I was just simply overwhelmed with trying to manage all of the feelings that are part of interacting with another or others, probably because of a very dysfunctional family situation. To content myself, I would go out into the fields around our house, which were many in the 50’s and 60’s, and create ‘communities’ by dragging things over the ground to make ‘city’ plots. I spent hours doing it, all by myself, and loved it. What I do now is not much different and for very much the same reasons, only now I create plots to grow food.

I’m 62 now and it took me many years to get to this lifestyle of progressively increasing #VoluntaryRadicalSimplicity. The longest I stayed at any place of employment was 7 years. It finally became clear to me that I didn’t agree with most of what was going on. I finally found that nothing I was doing was in line with my core values; there was always some kind of compromise involved and it was leaving my soul bankrupt. I was actually getting physically sick. So, I set out to be my own employer. When that also became too much compromising, I adopted this lifestyle. It’s not for everyone, but it was perfect for me.

He said if people want to change the world, they should look to themselves instead of putting their hopes or fears in a single person. “This can only be the work of the people,” Snowden said. “If we want to have a better world we can’t hope for an Obama, and we should not fear a Donald Trump, rather we should build it ourselves.”  ~ Edward Snowden

Hibiscus going to sleep

Hibiscus going to sleep/ cycles of life.

As Alfie narrates his own life in the movie, he shares with the camera that he suffers his rather limited personal accommodations because, “I rarely sleeps in my own bed.”

It reminded me that we all don’t have to have it all.

I don’t have enough resources on site, yet, to do all of the things I hope to do. My neighbor recently delivered the above pictured trimmings from a job he did. He has given me things (debris) from his own yard before and is now coming to me to ask whether or not I can utilize certain things. He has another job coming up which will yield a large amount of Oleander trimmings and he came inquiring whether or not it is allelopathic and could I use it? I quickly came in to investigate it and found that it IS toxic, but that the toxicity is virtually eliminated during aerobic composting. It is NOT  allelopathic. He will deliver that too and was delighted that I would take it. Saves him a fee at the dump and he is in full support of a neighbor growing food; win win. We’re going to put it in the #AlleywayProject. It is toxic to small animals who might eat it. It is toxic to humans in that it irritates the skin to touch it. What a great stride for my goals to plant the alley. #CommunityIsThenewNewDeal.

Our best hope is in each other, don’t you think? I have no idea what political persuasion my neighbor is. It doesn’t interfere with us getting along. His ex-wife, that’s another story, (we got off to a rough start when I first moved here and put up the fence between our yards). We evolved.

The changes I’m seeing in the World are that we are finally talking about things in a meaningful way.

“…it’s not “fit” to obey someone who is in such a desperate state”

We don’t have to limit ourselves to the powers that be; we have our own and they are rather Super. Not anything like nature’s though.

No matter what we do, “Nature Bats Last”. ~ Guy McPherson

“Are we meant to take more than we give
Or are we meant to be kind…” ~ Burt Bacharach

Lyrics:

What’s it all about, Alfie
Is it just for the moment we live
What’s it all about when you sort it out, Alfie
Are we meant to take more than we give
Or are we meant to be kind
And if only fools are kind, Alfie
Then I guess it’s wise to be cruel
And if life belongs only to the strong, Alfie
What will you lend on an old golden rule
As sure as I believe there’s a heaven above, Alfie
I know there’s something much more
Something even non-believers can believe in
I believe in love, Alfie
Without true love we just exist, Alfie
Until you find the love you’ve missed you’re nothing, Alfie
When you walk let your heart lead the way
And you’ll find love any day, Alfie, Alfie

It’s All Good

The pressure's on

The pressure’s on

My ‘boy’-friend called lately to exclaim that artichokes could be had for $1 each! He loves them and has perfected cooking them in a pressure cooker. Trouble is, he is living as a vagabond, traveling hither and yon in search of a new place to resettle. He inquired if I would be willing to cook them for us, but was not satisfied with steaming them and wanted me to search for the pressure cooker. The bottom was storing sweet potatoes in the ‘pantry’, the top showed up but the regulator went missing.

Friend started searching thrifts to no avail and then found one new for $12. I said, “Mine will show up.” I could recall having it in my hands but could not bring its whereabouts to the front of my mind. “Good luck with that”, he said.

Well, it did show up, almost miraculously, without me going on The Hunt For Red October.

I have been keeping my old appliances just because it is too much trouble to get them off property currently. I just read lately that old washing machine drums are a good place to store root vegetables. The old refrigerator is serving as a wall to keep alleyway travelers from looking straight through to the covered patio where valuable collectibles are staged for selling. It has also been useful for storing tools and such and to keep them dry.

Collectible Glass

Collectible Glass

When I was first setting up a home for myself, my mother gave me a pressure cooker. She had already given me a sewing machine and felt that these two things were essential for life. She cooked almost everything in a pressure cooker. Unfortunately, she didn’t supervise teaching us much about cooking as she didn’t want her kitchen a mess. She was a hard-working, single mother. I discovered that we learn what we really want to know. I became a skilled seamstress all on my own, some initial help from her, but I NEVER got the interest in cooking. “The root to a man’s heart” would never be my forte. I bake sweet potatoes in a Pyrex bowl with lid in a toaster oven, toast bread in it too, boil eggs for the doggies and Brussels sprouts for all of us on a hotplate and just slice or eat whole all other fruit and veggies. That’s the extent of my cooking.

I went looking for a tool in the defunct fridge and discovered two bins with kitchen implements in them. You know, strawberry leaf pluckers, egg separators, cheese slicers, salad serving spoons…things you never bother to use but think “I’ll save theses just in case”.

Lately, I had gone around scooping things off of surfaces and taking them out in bins, tubs and bags to sort later. Home Depot taught me to put stray items in shopping carts to go back to that department for sorting periodically. Great strategy for home as well.

I knew that the regulator had been in my hand, but not recently. Had no idea where it really was. Inside these bins of kitchen implements stored in the old fridge was a little item swaddled in a napkin. My hand went right for it and sure enough, it was the regulator. Take that Mr. Good Luck With That!

Sometimes I feel that I am daily dreaming my life into existence as things happen, just in the nick of time, almost without fail, to manifest in a way that works and is good for me.

I think that is the way with the world at large, if we just relax, have patience and plod along doing good… “Everything will be alright in the end and if it is not alright, it is not yet the end” ~ First Exotic Marigold Hotel

A little Pollyanna never hurt anyone; too much.

Sweet potatoes still 'cooking' in the Sun in #CompostCorner

Sweet potatoes still ‘cooking’ in the Sun in #CompostCorner

Sweet potatoes are a staple in my diet and I am determined to figure out how to grow them best. These are vines growing from whole or pieces of sweet potatoes that were sprouting in the pantry. Slips had already gone out into other areas from ones that had been grown in jars of water. I have yet to know if these will fair better than others, but it’s suspect that they will as this soil has been kitchen scraps (that the doggies won’t eat), cold composting for years.

Cruciferous volunteers in the #TriangleRaisedBed

Cruciferous volunteers in the #TriangleRaisedBed

Cruciferous vegetables are another staple here. This is in the #SNarrowRaisedBed in the #SouthFortyTriangleLot. Sweet potato vines that were pulled from other areas and were mingled into the bagged compost and arbor mulch for more nitrogen are still/re-growing. Some seed pods that had been compromised (because someone waited too long to cull them and they got too much moisture) were just laid atop for additional mulch/biomass. They are volunteering after finding their ways out of the pods and near enough to soil to inspire themselves. Brussels sprouts, cabbage or broccoli???

This volunteer cruciferous plant was marked with a painted magazine rack and protected from the nemis white butterfly with the wire trash can (if you take the trash can off for two seconds a white butterfly WILL show up). The pink thing helps keep me from running the hose over it. Really just need another stake. Lazy momma.

Cool season/ overwinterers

Cool season/ over-winterers

More cruciferousness. Some seeds were sown a little while back. Trying all different ways to get Brussels sprouts, cabbage, broccoli to grow for me here in this desert. Not sure if the seedlings were far enough along, but the first freeze is near, I can feel it; so wanted to get something out ahead of that.

A six pack of Bonnie Plants red cabbage were purchased and set out already. Yesterday some seedlings were put out with them. They had been nursing several places, eventually under the lace and sheer cover in the background. Spinach in the rectangle boxes are germinating very well now.

One Brussels sprout among many cabbages

One Brussels sprout among many cabbages

This one Brussels sprout seedling was put in among the cabbages before it dawned on me that things from the same family are often better off apart from each other to thwart disease/bugs.

The rest of the few Brussels sprouts seedlings went to the Southern end of the #1HugelkulturBed. It doesn’t get much Sun now, but come Spring, that area is shaded and cooler so maybe they won’t bolt like they did last Spring.

Southern end of #1HugelkulturBed

Southern end of #1HugelkulturBed

Bagged potting soil was put in each hole as the soil here is compacted. It takes a LOT of biomass to make better soil; have patience and plod along doing good, it is not yet the end.

Sun pattern this time of year

Sun pattern this time of year

The edge of the #RaisedBed had been planted with flowers in Spring and amendments to the soil were added at that time. The cabbage seedlings were planted where there was the most Sun combined with the best soil.

Strawberries from Spring still struggling to survive in the wheelbarrow

Strawberries from Spring still struggling to survive in the wheelbarrow

Last Spring a strawberry patch was made between the pomegranate and plum trees in a little raised bed with bagged compost and composted mulch. They did terribly as it was discovered that the bagged goods just aren’t composted enough for things to be happy growing in it like they are compost we make. There were three put in this wheelbarrow at the same time. I put the variety that sends out from the mother to establish other plants in the bed and the other variety in the barrow. These did the best. Hopefully mulching will keep them overwinter to grow in Spring?

I try not to be political here; but I have to say, after this election I feel profound relief; mostly that the circus has left town and things are back to a certain calm. I’m surprised that except for the most diehard Hillary supporters, most (‘liberal’) people are responding to the results with a sense of “it had to happen”. I register independent but will likely change to Green next year. I voted for Jill Stein. Hillary could not have won in Arizona, not that I would EVER have voted for her (the status quo is hopeless); it’s (Arizona) filled to overflowing with people I DO NOT agree with/Republicans (most of my own family). I’m a hippie. I wouldn’t have bothered to vote for a President had it not been for Jill (and wanting to help her party get 5% of the vote to get campaign funding for the future) as to me, there were no real choices. I will say that I was seriously relieved, and much more to my own surprise than I had any idea I would, that Hillary DID NOT get it. I understand the Trump victory. I understand being at the bottom of the totem poll with no hope in sight. I don’t get Trump or why anyone thinks he is the savior…Our system is terribly failed; but I believe strongly that it is failed much because of US, you and me. What I love about what I am hearing is that most progressive people feel the same and they know that WE have to do things for ourselves. There is no “Knight in shinning armor”.

So, I came to the conclusion that, to cause change, my design needed to change first. My arguments had been reactive, a sort of pesticide-like solution that, while temporarily stunning my foes (who were actually beloved family members), only strengthened their resolve. But, in permaculture, we don’t use pesticides and we don’t focus on destruction. Rather, we are careful cultivators. We are admirers of nature, striving to work with it as opposed to battle it. Human nature, then, should be no different. ~ Jonathon Engels, Permaculture As a Political Act

Schmolitics

Schmolitics

“All the world’s problems can be solved in a garden.” ~ Geoff Lawton

I believe this with all of my heart. I know it is true for my own life.

Pretty pansies

Pretty pansies

Look at this beauty. If this kind of beauty doesn’t make you happy, what will?

Well, maybe this…

Lucy gone Birding; chitter, chitter

Lucy gone Birding; chitter, chitter

or this…

Little Red-Haired Girl with her T-shirt 'lifter' on going for a morning waddle

Little Red-Haired Girl with her T-shirt ‘lifter’ on going for a morning waddle

She can barely walk but her tail wags ALL. THE. TIME. I do as little as I can get away with so as not to traumatize her any, she is so frail. I will give her a clip again very soon. I’m planning to make a halter for her today, but in the mean time, the T-shirt gave me something to hoist her up when she wants up.

There are more important things to worry about than the end of the world; as we thought we knew it. It wasn’t all that great anyhow. Time for change. Serious change.

The moral of this story is: It’s up to us. It’s all good; permaculture anyway.

#4HugelBed

It’s been such a lousy growing season for me this year. Still unsure of why so many things failed. My suspicion is that the straw mulch must have had herbicide residue. That, and the fact that so many of the things that have been done to establish permaculture features haven’t had long enough to develop to be what they will become in time.

It started like this

It started like this

Though, I have to say that the first year of the #1HugelkulturBed, it was planted and had fairly good success; especially with beets and chard.

At any rate, the thought now is to devote much of ongoing efforts to developing soil to be healthier and able to retain more of the limited water that arrives in this hot, hot desert. Hopefully over-watering won’t be quite such an issue; it may have been part of the trouble too.

So, time for another Hugelkultur element in the #SouthFortyTriangleLot next to the Plum tree. A #SquashPit (see embedded video at the end for a how-to) was ‘planted’ there at the beginning of the growing season and when I dug up to it for the new trench, it was full of worms. The squash pit is just in front of where the yellow watering wand is stuck in the blocks to mark it.

Pyracantha trimmings from a recent culling in the #ParkwayProject

Pyracantha trimmings from a recent culling in the #ParkwayProject

First thing was to dig a trench. Second thing was to use the Pyracantha debris in the bottom of the trench as it is very prickery and not fun to deal with on the surface layers later on.

Pyracantha debris before being lopped down

Pyracantha debris before being lopped down

All of the pyracantha debris lopped down

All of the Pyracantha debris lopped down

Part of why a trench is dug is to give you the dirt you need for adding over the wood and other materials. A Hugelkultur structure can be built from the ground up if you have other dirt to use. More dirt would have been nice, but it will settle in time and there are all of those wire rounds with composting material that can be used to fill in some of the holes. This is all that the Pyracantha debris, that was sitting on the sticks, amounted to after it was lopped down. It was put in the trench first. It was still somewhat ‘green’ so will add some nitrogen for breaking down the other wood.

Next the sticks were added.

Putting the sticks in the trench

Putting the sticks in the trench

The littler ones are useful for filling in gaps.

All of the sticks are in

All of the sticks are in

Green things

Green things

Watermelon, pumpkin, and tomato vines that were pulled to make the trench were added atop the sticks. More nitrogen to activate things.

Stuff from out front that was waiting for this build

Stuff from out front that was waiting for this build

The stuff from the front yard that was just sitting in the #TriangleRaisedBed waiting for this build was brought over to add over the sticks before covering with the trench dirt.

More debris to build up the nitrogen elements

More debris added over the sticks

A little bit closer view

A little bit closer view

All available dirt added over the debris

All available dirt added over the debris

It’s taller than it looks in this image. This was after using all of the trench dirt. More dirt would have been better. I think the things decomposing in the wire rounds will make a nice topping in the not to distant future.

A little perspective for height

A little perspective for height

It got watered in to help the dirt settle some and to start activating things.

Little Red-Haired Girl sniffin for grubs

Little Red-Haired Girl sniffin for grubs

Both of the doggies love when dirt gets dug so they can hunt for grubs, which were many.

Brown Noser

Little Brown Noser

This big critter came to give its approval and see if there were any bugs to spare

This big critter came to give its approval and see if there were any bugs to spare

blue/black waspy flying thing

Blue/black waspy flying thing

And this critter was burying itself in the straw until I disturbed it to try to take an image. It flew off and came back to burrow into this mulch; looking for a place to lay some eggs I presume.

Voila! Another Hugelkultur element at First Do No Harm Front Yard Farmacy

Voila! Another Hugelkultur element at First Do No Harm Front Yard Farmacy

#4HugelBed is complete for now. Hopefully this will act as a water sink next to the Plum tree and be another place with lots of nutrition (eventually) for planting. Hugelkultur building is a great way to keep wonderful resources out of landfills and be better utilized (here) for an eventual, hopeful food forest.

Every day something.

The moral of this story is:

“Tis a lesson you should heed:
Try, try again.
If at first you don’t succeed,
Try, try again.”