Grackle & Sun

Archive for the tag “gardening”

Vernally Obliged

Happy day after the vernal equinox!  Here are some perky and punctual jonquidils that opened up just yesterday.  Even though the world still seems half asleep, everything is stirring.  The sap is rising, metaphorically, and circulating literally. I feel this in me, too. A few weeks ago, I was compelled to visit my favorite local herbal shop for some spring tonics. I’ve been drinking blood cleansing teas made of nettle and burdock, red clover and violet leaf.  I am craving all green things, to eat all the green. I often eat according to what colours I’m hungry for.  It’s a fun and pretty darn informative way to get intuitive feedback on what one’s body needs. Just listen. It will tell you. This year is all about listening.

Usually, I notice spring first with the change in the angle of the sun and the restlessness of the breeze. This year, though, spring has rung in with sound.  The frogs are out in mighty chorus—the spring peepers, pickerels, and southern leopard frogs—announcing that spring has arrived. The toads will be next, and then later the bullfrogs will add their baritone to the summer sound.  A pair of barred owls have been conversing like love struck teenagers every night for the last week.  Wild ducks have been visiting the lake, and just today, we saw a blue heron circling above.  And what else has come to roost at the farm this spring?

Chicks!

Meet the 4 Buff Orpingtons. Question. What do you do when you spend several years dreaming about raising chickens and reading books on raising chickens and deciding that the perfect chickens to raise would be Buff Orpingtons, and then one day you go into the local farm store for some Sav-a Lam and see that they’re stocked with all manner of poultry and waterfowl—which you are, of course, obligated to peruse—and amongst the countless pens of countless Leghorns and Rhode Island Reds and sex-linked this and thats, lo and behold there are four lone Buff Orpington chicks tucked in a tub in the corner?  This is not a trick question.  Clearly I was meant to take them home.  The end.

I will go back for some Leghorns.  Lol.  In a week or two, they will go live in the chicken house with the rest of the flock, but for now they are in their cozy box in the front porch where I can listen to them peeping as I work on various projects. What else? Gardeny goodness. I planted a millionty seeds and am curious to see how they fare starting indoors.  I will bore no one with photos of a table full of little cups of dirt. Garden plans are being tilled in the fertile fields of my mind. These plans involve raised beds, fencing, and part-time garden-wandering chickens… If I’d been here in time, I would have prepped the garden in the fall. As it is, I am very late and will have to make do with what I can get done in the next month. No need to feel bad about it though—something will grow.

The sheep are enjoying the first nibbles of spring grass.  Here you can see a very chubbeh Phillip in the forefront. He is such a pet.

We are very seriously considering adding a couple wool sheep to the farm to try out. (By which I mean for me to play with their wool). I’m looking at Clun Forest, Romney, and Cheviots, but am listening to any and all advice from those with wool sheep raising experience.  A shepherd/spinner friend has also recommended Montadales and Coopworths.  I am unfamiliar with both.  So far, I am most interested in the Cluns as a hardy dual purpose sheep, but have never seen or felt Clun wool.  Anyone?

Finally, Ronin is a happy farm dog.

Be well and listen hard.

A Hope-filled Plan: Dye Garden

For all the successes that I’ve had with welcoming volunteers into our yard, our raised bed gardens have failed miserably the last couple years.  In all fairness, the weather in St. Louis is shit for most of the “growing season”.  Last summer we had record droughts, a truly inhumane number of days over 100F, and record lows for the Mississippi river (which are still in effect).  I planted radishes in the beginning of June that finally germinated a month later and didn’t grow an inch until mid-September.  The harvest, if I’d picked it, would have come in October.  I kid you not.  Radishes typically go from seed to harvest in roughly a month.  That should tell you how bad it was.

So this year, I’m doing something totally different.  I’m planning a dye garden instead.  Who needs food, anyway?  It’s kind of surprising how few places have a fully stocked catalog of dye plants.  I ended up ordering seeds from 2 different places—The Woolery and Horizon Herbs.  After I’d already ordered from the other two, I found this shop.  Harold has a great assortment of seeds!  I look forward to ordering from this shop in the future.

Here’s what I got:

  1. Stinging Nettles (Urtica dioica)
  2. Madder (Rubia tinctorum)
  3. Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca)
  4. Calendula (Calendula officinalis)
  5. Our Lady’s Bedstraw (Galium verum)
  6. Gipsywort (Lycopus europaeus)
  7. Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria)
  8. Dyer’s Woodruff (Asperula tinctoria)
  9. Woad (Isatis tinctoria)
  10. Weld (Reseda luteola)

I’m hoping to add black hollyhock, coreopsis, and blue false indigo to the list, as well.  To my knowledge, none of the above plants are native to my region, although many have been naturalized.  However, coreopsis (coreopsis tinctoria) and false indigo (baptisia australis) are. There is a variety of nettle native to North America, but I didn’t find it offered at either of the seed companies I used.  My hope is to eventually have a dyer’s garden that is at least in part native varieties.  I already have pokeweed, goldenrod, and elderberry growing in my yard, and I’m trying to figure out what else I can grow.  The majority of native dye plants from this region (that I know of) are trees.  Not the easiest thing to toss into an urban garden.  But I think this will be a good start.  I kind of missed the boat for planting native seeds this year—most need a good period of wet/cold to germinate, and the recommended time to plant is in December or the very beginning of January.  I am hoping to add a number of native varieties this spring, though, by ordering actual plants  The very excellent (and friendly) Missouri Wildflowers Nursery sells both seed and plants.  My wish list is loooooooooong.  Lol.

Now, where to put it all…

Do any of you have dyer’s gardens?  What do you grow?  Any growing tips?  I’d love to hear!

Live happy, dye happy!  And get dirty!

Volunteers, Part 2

It would be wrong to say that a plant only has value in my garden if I happen to find it pleasing for some reason or another.  I don’t want to limit my understanding of a plant (or animal or anything else) only to my opinion of it or my use of it, although I recognize that those two factors greatly influence what I choose to grow.   I would like to be able to appreciate plants for their plantness, to be able to see them regardless of whether or not they are beautiful or useful or delicious.  Maybe this stems from a desire as I get older to be seen just as I am, not judged to be good or not good, not reliant upon values or opinions.    Just to be.  To have a patch of this good earth where we can live under the warmth of the sun.   People and plants have a fair bit in common.

As for the volunteers in my garden…

I talk about plant uses below simply because it’s the most obvious part of what I’m learning about them.  It is in no way the only reason why I keep them.  I keep them in my garden because they belong there.  It’s my tithe to the genius loci (hums “Getting to know you…”).   It’s just how it is.  I am cool with being a weed gardener, although I prefer weed steward.   I don’t grow them, after all.  I just care for them and keep them.

Some so-called weeds fall under the category of “beneficial weeds”, meaning that they in some way help the plants that people actually want growing in their gardens or are in some other way of use to people.   So why are they called weeds at all?  I think only because they don’t tend to do what people want them to.  They don’t like to be obedient like good bedding plants.  Weeds are independent and resourceful survivors.  They don’t need us.

Queen Anne’s Lace

Many of these beneficial weeds are considered such because they attract predatory insects or provide some type of companion growing relationship to other plants.  One such plant is Queen Anne’s lace.  Although not native to North America, it has become widely naturalized and is seen growing with abandon in fields and roadsides all over where I grew up.  It is one of my favorite flowers as much for nostalgia as anything else.  I recently learned that Queen Anne’s lace is a beneficial weed in that it provides shade for other plants, attracts wasps (which kill pesty insects), and is said even to boost tomato crops if interplanted with them.  So sayeth Wikipedia, so it must be true.

QAL

I brought seeds of Queen Anne’s lace from the Farm a few years ago and planted them in the dry, hot west bed which runs between the house and driveway.  I’m always looking for hardy plants to grow there, as the hose won’t reach it.  Plants in this bed must tough out the summer on their own.   Early each summer, our driveway is lined with Queen Anne’s lace that has seeded itself everywhere but where I planted it.   It’s a little piece of the country,  a balm to me here in a city I don’t want to be in.   It was only fairly recently that I learned that Queen Anne’s lace is also a dye plant.  I haven’t had the heart to to cut off the flowers to dye with, though.

Plantain

Another favorite volunteer plant that I take great delight in is plantain.  It is the bane of lawn gardeners everywhere.  Little do they know how much good is packed into this unassuming plant.  There are lots of types of plantain, the most well known being plantago major, or broadleaf plantain.   What grows in my yard is another common type of called buckhorn, ribwort, or English plantain—plantago lanceolata.   Give it a nice spot in a garden bed, and it will grow HUGE.   And it also does fairly well in the cracks of my sidewalk.

Plantain is edible and said to be very nutritious.  It was actually brought over by European settlers as a potted herb for both culinary and medicinal purposes.  I’ve read that a tisane of the leaves is very effective for coughs, although I’ve not tried it.  I have, however, used it to good effect on poison ivy.  I just chewed up the leaves and stuck them to my forearms over said offending rash.  Hey, I was desperate.  But for something more sophisticated,  Sarah Powell of the excellent Lilith’s Apothecary gives a wonderful DIY recipe for making infused oils or salves of plantain and violet.   Her Etsy shop is full of fantastical goodness, too.

Goldenrod

It’s taken me longer to love the goldenrod.  To be honest, it’s been a pain in the ass—always growing in the most inconvenient places.  I try to give it a home in the west bed, it wants to grow with my herbs.  I try to give it a corner in the east bed, it wants to make a wall across the sidewalk.   I feel obligated to give it a home, as I’m dedicated to the idea of native gardens.    So, when this year a big bunch of it came up around the telephone pole at the end of the driveway, and I said good, you can grow there.  Peace for both of us.  It’s gotten taller and taller, and I’m learning to like goldenrod.   You have to be patient with it—it starts out tidily enough, but soon gets leggy and straggly, and it takes until late summer/early fall for it to bloom.  But it is beautiful when it does.   Goldenrod is also a dyeplant.  We’ll see if I have the heart to use it.  I can’t help but feel bad about cutting down the flowers it worked all season to make.  But a dyer’s garden is all chopped off stems and no flowers—like something out of The Addams Family.   If I want to dye, and I do, I have to make peace with that.

goldenrod phone pole garden

Goldenrod is much more widely accepted as a garden flower now.  It also has been used traditionally as a medicinal tonic.  It is also considered a companion plant, beneficial for attracting and hosting predatory insects.   Every time I look at goldenrod, I think of Little House on the Prairie, Melissa Gilbert style.  Maybe I will dye with it after all.  Ma Ingalls would be proud.

Elderberry

Finally, we have sambucus canadensis, the American elderberry.  These sucker up all over the place, but this is the first one to grace my yard.  I am thrilled.  Elderberries have a ridiculous number of uses—culinary, medicinal, dye, winemaking.  It provides food for birds and other animals, too.  Care must be taken with it, though, as parts of the plant, including unripe berries, are somewhat toxic.   I am mostly interested in the berries for dye.  But I am also content just looking at it.  It’s very pretty.   There’s something very seventies about elderberry.   It’s all beaded headbands and macrame and Mother Earth love.  Maybe it’s those great big flowers.   I smile every time I see it.

elderberry

Elderberry farming is slowly but surely becoming a thing here in Missouri.  A few foreward looking farmers as well as Missouri State University are working both on developing elderberry farming techniques and marketing.  I hope it catches on—in a sustainable way.  What better to grow than a native plant with such a variety of uses?  I’m glad to be a volunteer elderberry farmer.

I talk to my plants a lot.  To me, they seem to have spirits, personalities.  Maybe that’s my synaesthesia talking, but that’s how I experience it.  One is not like another–even the same species.  I do my best to be a good steward of the land and to balance my wants with the land’s wants.   And while it’s fascinating to see all the different ways that plants are useful to me, I am trying to see past that to how a plant is intrinsically valuable to the earth.  There are connections from one living thing to another that go far beyond what we observe, especially if our view is narrowed only to how we are affected or benefited.   Part of cultivating awareness here is just watching and listening and letting things grow.

 

 

Volunteers

I don’t know a lot about plants.   I mean, I took botany in college as a requirement for my then bio major, but I don’t have that deep-seated intimate knowledge of plants that some people do.   I do ok growing them.  Houseplants and I get along so-so, usually better if I ignore them most of the time.   I garden better in the country than I do in the city.  The way I see it,  successful gardening has a lot more to do with the plants’ tenacity and will to live and propagate than it does with me having a green thumb.   My thumbs are just ordinary thumbs after all.

Japanese Knotweed

But plants fascinate me.  I love them.  Which is why I am trying to be a better gardener.    But it wasn’t the desire to grow more vegetables that sparked this love, nor was it a blossoming need to fill flower beds (see what I did there?), although both of those things are true.   It was weeds.  Well, truthfully, it was one particular weed that made me start looking around at the fascinating world volunteering their growth all around us:  Polygonum cuspidatum.  This plant was growing in our yard when we moved in to our house 7 years ago.  Didn’t know what it was. It looks like bamboo, and the bees are crazy about the flowers.  Swarms of bees.  So many bees, in fact, that the kids had a hard time playing in the back yard where this plant had absolutely taken over a 30ft section of fence.   So I took a sample of it to the Missouri Botanical Garden for an ID.   Japanese knotweed, they said.  Invasive.  Get rid of it!   So I did.

At least I thought I did.  Because the next year, it was back.  This time instead of pulling it, I dug it up.  All the roots I could find.   But the next year, it came back again.  Turns out that ANY little knob of root left in the ground will sprout.  And it didn’t help that two of my neighbors let it grow all along their fence-line.  So this time I dug, removed roots, and put down weed barrier.  Well, all I had was newspaper, but I laid down a ridiculously thick layer of it all along the back fence, and then recovered it will soil.  And this seemed to work.  For a while.   The polygonum is back, but in pull-able amounts.   And in the seven years that I’ve been battling the polygonum, I’ve had a change of heart.  I’ve decided that I just can’t hate a plant that is so damned determined to grow.   So, I give it a little space now—just a little—and keep it from choking out the rest of the garden.  We have a tentative truce.  Not enough for me to take pictures of it, though.

Lady’s Thumb

My relationship with other weeds is much friendlier.   After I learned about the polygonum, I started looking around at all the other plants growing in my yard.  Part of this, I think, was just the newness of owning my own patch of land for the first time, which meant that every plant was potentially precious just by virtue of it growing on my soil.   One of the first I noticed was this little sweetie:

I think this is Polygonum pensylvanicum

As best as I can tell, it is polygonum pensylvanicum (used to be classified as a persicaria), also known as smartweed and lady’s thumb among others.  Most consider this a very invasive weed.   It is really quite lovely, however.  It braves the intense heat of the summer without withering, and it blooms for a very long time.  It’s also pretty easy to control by mowing.  So we let it grow in mounds in places where it seems happy and where other things are more reluctant to grow—like things I intentionally plant.   This plant is native to North America, and I found information suggesting that it was used medicinally by various tribes for diarrhea and hemorrhages.   Some species are said to be edible, although they are reported to be very, very peppery.   I have no desire to eat them, but I find this kind of information interesting.

Creeping Charlie

Another beautiful plant that likes to grow in my yard is creeping charlie.  It’s probably my favorite volunteer because of the gorgeous ground cover that it provides year after year under the trees and bushes I planted at the back of the yard (formerly Japanese knotweed territory).   It is most beautiful in  spring when it is in full bloom, although the greenery stays pretty lush for most of the year, dying back only after a deep frost has occurred.  It tolerates the whole summer without ever being watered.   It is easily manicured into a border by mowing.   Creeping charlie has medicinal uses and has also historically been used for some culinary purposes, although the safety of this is disputed.   Again, I don’t want to eat it, I’m just happy that it volunteered itself as ground cover around my back tree garden.

creeping charlie

This is a picture of the area where it is now growing with abandon.   I linked because the tags are helpful.   In this picture,  all these trees and shrubs are only a year old in the ground, and the creeping charlie is just clustered around the base of each.  Now it has spread across the entirety of the back fenceline in a lush, deep ground cover.  I’ll have to get a good picture of it next spring.   It’s really pretty.  I’d take a picture of how it looks now, but my camera is borked, and the phone camera is just barely getting me by—by which I mean that every time I take a picture with it, I want to throw it against the wall.  I miss my camera.    Here is a patch of it, though.

creeping charlie = great ground cover

Pokeweed

Pokeweed.  Pokeberry.  Poke.  Phytolacca americana.  It grows all over the farm where I grew up in the Ozarks, and I’ve always loved it’s magenta-stemmed and purple-berried gorgeousness.   I remember the first time I  really noticed this plant.  I was maybe 14 years old and was out riding fence with my dad.  We came out of the woods and into one of the upper pastures, and I saw this giant magenta plant full of long clusters of purple-black berries.  It had to have been 7 feet tall, and the stem was very thick.  It looked like something from an alien planet—far too exotic for some farm in Southeast Missouri.   But no, it was just poke.   I was taught that it’s poisonous, and it wasn’t until I got married and was blessed with the chance to meet my husband’s wise and wonderful Gran that I learned that in many parts of southern Missouri (and indeed the South), it is eaten as “poke salat”.   Gran says that she was sent out as a child to pick the young, tender leaves to cook.   Still, it is regarded as a highly toxic plant, regardless of how many people grew up eating it every spring.   Poke is apparently also being researched medicinal use for both AIDS and cancer.  Way to go, poke!

Poke has only chosen a few places in my yard to grow.  Here we’ve got a beautiful specimen of pokeweed growing up beside the compost pile.

Pokeweed, soon I will dye with you!

I am more comfortable with the greens from my garden or from the local farmer’s market to bother eating the poke growing in my yard.  No, I’ve got a far better purpose for it in mind:  dyeing yarn.    Using the berries to create the dyebath produces the same gorgeous magenta colour as found on the stems of the plant.   For a long time, it was not considered a fast dye (meaning that it either washes out or bleaches quickly in the sun).  But a local dyer named Carol Leigh developed a way to make the dye fast by mordanting the fiber in vinegar.  I discovered this in the very awesome book Harvesting Color by Rebecca Burgess, who studied with Leigh when researching recipes for the book.  Now I cannot wait to try it this fall!  It takes a lot of berries, so I’ll be harvesting at the Farm, too.

Dandelion

One of the most abundant and welcome volunteers in my yard is the noble dandelion.  You can make wine, tea, salad, medicine, and dye all with this one weed.   I say weed only because of the number of people who try to eradicate dandelions from their yards.  They know not what they do.   Dandelions make me smile.  I happily give them all the space they want to grow.

i love dandelions

Violets

Then there is the wonderful violet.  Often overlooked, but this is a mistake.  Violets will grow like nobody’s business if you just give them a chance.  They are edible and medicinal and generally a lovely plant to have around.  Right now I’ve got violets growing for me in pots, in all of my garden beds, around my roses, and in my yard.  All volunteers.  Anything that works so hard to grow so prettily deserves a spot in my garden.  I freely admit to talking to the violets.  We’re friends.

a big colony of violets in the west garden bed. gorgeous when they are blooming, and lovely ground cover the rest of the year.

That is all for now.  The rest of the volunteers will have to wait for Part 2.  I hope that this encourages you to take a closer look at all the cool weeds growing around you, and maybe think of ways of giving them space in your garden and in your life.   Taking the time to develop a more intimate awareness of  these plants has enriched my life.  It has helped me remember to be aware of what is right under my feet, and it keeps me from taking things for granted.

Serendipity

There is a difference between being poor and being broke.  It is a difference of which I am keenly aware.   I consider my life to be incredibly abundant—just not usually with money.  Over the last decade or so, being broke is something which I’ve begrudgingly come to be thankful for—-it has taught me a lot of lessons about what is truly important in my life, lessons I might not have learned otherwise—like how little I actually need, and what things I actually want (not just think I want), where I find my happiness, and what truly makes me joyful.    It has made me appreciate the generosity of others, and it has, in turn, made me more generous.   This has been a process, though.  There was a time when if i wanted something, I’d  just run out and buy it.  Later, there was also a time when I viewed my inability to do that as a really bad thing.   I don’t feel that way anymore.  Sure I’d like to not ever have to worry about money—-so would 99% of the rest of the world.  We’re all rowing the same boat, and manning this oar has changed my perspective.   Now I see wealth as not owing anybody a dime.   Having my hands tied as a consumer has made me rethink my role and my power as a consumer; it has made me rethink what I consider to be resources.  This is a gift.  This is useful.   I now see the myriad ways in which things can be re-purposed;  I can see the resources that we have all around us if we just look hard enough.

I am a functionalistic artist, my medium is serendipity.   Today’s reflection is on good-luck gardening.

A couple years ago, I decided to build a low retaining wall around one of the flower beds which runs along side the house.    When we bought the house 7 years ago, the bed just had some concrete pavers leaning up against it at an angle to hold in the soil.  Needless to say, it didn’t work very well, and it was a ridiculous mess.   We also decided to build a raised bed garden on a strip of the backyard that refused to grow grass.   Combined, these two projects needed about 100 linear feet of building material.

Where I grew up in the country, such a building project would merely require going to the creek or field and picking all the rock you could carry.   That’s one thing you can count on having in the Ozarks—rock.   I know, because that’s how half the house I lived in was built.   Good thing my parents had so many kids to haul all that limestone, lol.   But as I looked out into my seemingly resource-free urban backyard, my spirits plummeted.    In the city, people buy rocks.   That wasn’t going to happen.  So I mulled it over for a while.   Then I remembered Freecycle.

Serendipity:  Someone less than 2 miles from my house decided to rebuild all of their flowerbeds and their patio with shiny, new interlocking pavers—-and they wanted somebody to haul away all the old brick from their yard.  200 bricks for the cost of heaving them to my car?  Yes, please!

So we bricked a little cottagey wall on the east bed of the house:

East bed built from FREE bricks. Yes this was my first time working with mortar.

We even have enough bricks left over to brick in the west bed, too!  I’ll get to that side of the house sometime soon…   So, the east bed was fixed.   Garden soil held firmly in place by a rustic little brick wall.   It was on to the raised bed.

In looking for ideas for raised bed designs, I stumbled across this awesome article on building with urbanite.   How cool is that?  Very.   Do you know why?  When we moved into the house and started working on the yard, one of the first projects we tackled was to bust up a concrete pad and a weird broken sidewalk that we found half buried in the backyard.  Sledgehammer:  I have one.

The sledgehammer is my friend.

Serendipity:   All of that concrete was piled up by the side of our garage while we waited until such a time as when we could have it hauled off.  It never occurred to me to look at it as a building material.  Silly me.  Now I know better.  So for the price of a couple bags of mortar, we had a raised bed.

Urbanite raised bed just after construction

You know what the problem with raised beds is?  You have to fill them with dirt.  Well, we’ve got a pretty awesome compost pile going, but that wasn’t going to cut it.  The first two years, I just kind of…. fluffed up the dirt to help it fill in the bed.  It worked ok, but the soil in this city yard has seen better days.  Last year’s garden faltered miserably despite all my attempts at watering and fertilizing.  It just wasn’t happy.  It didn’t help that half the summer was over 100 degrees.  :/  Even my cilantro died.  This good Puerto Rican has never not been able to grow cilantro.   That is not right!    This past fall, I dug all the leaves I raked up from the yard into the garden—this being a good bit of advice from the classic homesteading book Ten Acres Enough.   Even still, as of last week, I’d pretty much given up the ghost on putting a garden in.  The bed needed more soil.  A lot more soil.  Good soil.  And it just wasn’t in the works to buy any.   Geez, good dirt is expensive in the city!

But one night last week after work, I had to run to the grocery store to pick up stuff for the kids’ lunches the next day.  I thought about my choices for stores open at that hour that would have the gluten-free alternatives that we need, and on a whim, I went to a grocery store that I almost never shop at.

Serendipity:   There was a great big sign on the remains of their summer gardening section that said, “Garden Topsoil:  10 for 10”.   That’s right.  They were selling off all their dirt for $1 a bag—that’s how much they wanted to get rid of that display.   For the grand total of $16, I bought enough dirt to (mostly) fill up my raised bed.   Together with the compost I added, we have a chance at gardening success this year!

Sweet topsoil SCORE!

More serendipity:   And since I’d saved all my seeds and the seeds my sister-in-law gave me last year, I planted out my garden for free.   The tomato plants were a gift from one of my mother-in-laws co-workers who just moved out of state,  the parsley, thyme, chives, rosemary, and oregano came back from last year, and the black-eyed susans are volunteers to keep it all cheerful.    There’s also a rogue radish that I couldn’t bring myself to pull after it flowered so prettily last year.  It overwintered, staying totally green, and is now in full bloom again.   The only thing I bought this year to help in the planting was a box of popsicle sticks.  I am horrible about remembering what, where, and when I planted anything.  This year I got all militant on the garden and I marked EVERY SINGLE SEED.  LMAO.  Now there will be no guesswork as to whether or not that thing sprouting up is weed or a beet.  I’ve got it down.

Little placemarkers to help me remember my rows

And, AND!   In other areas of the garden…

I decided ages ago that the best way to attract and help out the birds in my yard (without making messes and spending a bajillion dollars) is to give them water instead of food.   But how could I do this without tromping to some garden center to spend money on a birdbath?

Serendipity:   I had all kinds of dish-shaped things laying around!  I just had to look at them with the new purpose in mind.   I found some large planter bottoms that were in storage in the garage, and I turned them into my makeshift birdbaths.   It actually works really well.  I put a larger, deeper one on the bottom—it also serves as the outdoor dog water bowl—and then i set a smaller dish on top of a brick inside of that so that the little birds can bathe and drink, too.  But my birdbath needed to be made into it’s own pretty little space.    I received a beautiful yarrow plant from my Gran for my birthday.  This was the first planting in the birdbath garden.  And I ran to a local nursery and found 3 Russian sage plants on sale for $6 a piece—-which i mention only because with tax, it came out to the exact amount of money I had on me.  I always think that’s funny.

Birdbath garden

It’s not super-fantastic now, but when it all grows and fills in, this is going to be a lovely little birdbath garden.  The birds already love it.  They use the birdbath at all hours of the day.   Oh, and the mulch!  Lol.  Found two bags of hardwood mulch, a bag of lime and a bottle of organic fertilizer that I totally forgot I had stashed in a corner of the garage.  I’d curse my memory, but it was like Christmas when I found it, so I can only be happy about it.

The dictionary defines serendipity as the aptitude for making desirable discoveries by accident.  It is happily a common thread in my life—one that I am astoundingly thankful for.  I like to think that between serendipity on one hand and financial exigency on the other, I have discovered my homesteading spirit in the most unlikely place.   I would have expected that to happen on the Farm, and certainly life in the country laid the foundation.   But that experience, while creating wonderful memories and providing a lot of useful knowledge, is not what did it.  It has been my experience in the city that has helped me distill this understanding—in part because my yearning to return to the country has made me read voraciously about farm life, but also because figuring out how to be an urban homesteader without the resources I took for granted before has made me creative by necessity.   Lessons learned.   Lessons that I am now ready to take back to a farm of my own.  Any time now…

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