small potatoes

i finally got around to taking pictures of the potato towers in sprout and thought i’d throw together a little visual tutorial of the process for anyone interested in a fun and easy garden project. we had to delay a lot of our expansion plans because of the fire, but as i’ve grown in knowledge and confidence i still wanted to find ways to add new crops to the garden this year while working with the space we have. i chose to use some left over wire from last year’s tomato cages (we need to go bigger this year anyway as our tomato plants spilled over them and then some) but you can find a roll of inexpensive wire at any hardware store that will do the trick. this was originally from a roll of fencing wire. i combined two cages to make each roughly 3-4 foot tall wire tower. they measured about 2 feet in diameter and held together nicely with some coaxing from a pair of pliers. we used straw to build a sort of “bird’s nest” in the bottom of each cage. once i had a little under a foot high layer of straw i added dirt. just enough to cover the the straw thickly. now here’s where i forgot to snap any photos! a neighbor (and new friend) came by with the extra organic potato starts she’d offered me the month before. she left smaller potatoes whole and cut bigger ones in halves or quarters. they had been left to dry some in the sun and all had started to sprout. starting with the bottom layer we laid potatoes or pieces thereof around the edge of the circle with the sprouts or “eyes” facing one of the openings in the fencing. we left 3-4 inches between each spud and then repeated the process until we reached the top…and ran out of starts! we also watered each layer before adding the next. i ended up with four layers in each tower. straw, dirt, potatoes, water. straw, dirt, potatoes, water…you get the idea. after that i added one more thicker layer of dirt on top of the tower and planted a mix of salad greens so as not to waste space or water! supposedly potatoes in these towers need to be watered about once a week for twenty minutes, but with all the rain i’ve hardly had to touch them. the straw seems to work a bit like a swamp cooler in the way it moves the water and even during drier weeks i don’t find myself watering for as long as suggested. they’ve grown beautifully! i’m noticing the buds of the flowers are forming and as soon as they bloom and then die back we can start digging around for potatoes through the openings in the wire.  there are three different kinds of potatoes in the mix so it will be a surprise every time. it’s perfectly okay to store the potatoes in the towers (no need to water) and take from them as needed. any left behind will volunteer for next year! i intend to let them do so and get two years out of these before starting fresh.

potato tower 10potato tower 9potato tower 11potato tower8potato tower7potato towerpotato tower 5potato tower 4

Advertisements

mother’s day

grandma maggie

i have always longed to mother. friends, siblings, animals, elders. and i have, at times even well. a cup of tea. something for that heartache. bandages and balm for the broken bits. on occasion too bossy or indignant, but always with good intention. only sometimes with the silent fear of loss.

i have watched women welcome the children of their womb with open arms. outside and in all at once. messy with life and blood and tears and joy and pain. and i have longed for that too. every part of it. i am not afraid.

but to mother, i must believe, does not require it. to mother is to teach. to give of yourself. to forsake your own comfort to ensure another’s. to chase the precious, fleeting moments. to mother is to hope and pray and work and wait and love even when it hurts. even when it splits you open wide.

happy mother’s s day to all you selfless, wild women. all you constant, silent pillars. i pray you know your work’s worth. and if, like me, you wait for the weight of motherhood in those outstretched arms…i pray you know today is already yours.

the long drive home

ribbons of light danced over her fingers as they gripped the steering wheel. passing headlights blurred her sight, eyes finding the white line. steady. a familiar tune played through static on the radio and she forgot half the drive watching for the clouds that gather under street lamps this time of year. she tries not to think about how tired she is. or the things she fears she’s left unfinished. it hurts sometimes. the way the days run together into weeks and months. the way old friendships can seem suddenly foreign. how her thoughts are so very far away, like fingers grasping at the edge of a thin shawl. it hurts when the moments she gathers the strength to look forward to pass quickly…leaving only a sinking feeling in their wake. maybe next time, she’ll think. maybe tomorrow the peace comes.

something good this way comes

beet itchardtable settinghomegrown

this morning i woke to the news that one of our two pines still showing green has been marked with a big fat ‘X’. almost two hundred trees on our land alone have been or will need to be taken down and i’ve been holding on to this one tightly in my mind. it’s presence has been a comfort to me. a promise that not all is lost. a promise that my children will have a century old friend left in this barren landscape. having it cut down…the thought alone is heartbreaking for me. a stinging loss made greater by those that came before it. we’ll do our best to save it, but for now we wait and lock the gate behind us when we go. i’ve been wrestling with my love for this place. it is so different than it was the balmy day in may when we first laid eyes on it. we had looked for two years for the perfect spot. a simple house with good bones. a safer road than the one we were currently driving. privacy. these things were on our list, but at the very top were the trees. trees that would offer shade to our animals and a hammock or two. trees that left large open spaces of usable land to feed our family year round. trees that stretched up to a clear sky every night and greeted us with their sweet scent every morning. trees that made you think of the ocean when the wind blew. we squealed behind the realtor’s back when he opened the gate that day. it doesn’t sound the same. it doesn’t smell the same. but it is still ours. we are still stewards of this mountain, trees or no and it should not suffer alone. i realized yesterday that i have a choice. i can bemoan the destruction this fire wrought and forsake the land because of it or i can choose to love it. i can choose to do all the things i planned to do. i can read and research and help the land heal. i can replant and re-imagine. i can choose to fall in love with it regardless of its scars. i know someone who has done that for me. 

i hope to use this space to document the continued journey in homesteading this land after wildfire. in the next month or two we’ll be inoculating some of our stumps and burned logs with mushroom spores to aid in the decomposition process as well as to provide food and habitat for critters that have been displaced. we should get some tasty foraging out of the deal too! we’ll also be moving forward with our plans to bring chicks home this spring. we’ve been looking over coop plans and chicken friendly compost set ups to help us make the most out of their scratching and save ourselves some money on soil and feed. our house plans should be finalized in the coming weeks and we’ll begin the process of building a new home. in the meantime i’ll be taking lessons from oak trees in re-sprouting at the roots.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

also this while driving right now. the video is worth it too…happy that one of my favorites to follow reminded me how much i enjoy this album.

dirty hands

 

breakfastolive ballhen and chicks

i feel the need to admit something to myself. to the handful of you that find your way here. i need to admit that, for the last month or so, i have let myself languish in discontent.  and although i’m not without moments of crippling gratitude i have been more often than not filled with anger. i don’t have a solution. there is no quick fix. this is a season to pass (trudge) through just like any other. but i like to think i’m getting better at it. the taking life as it comes. when it is easy and filled with wonder and when it is hard and breathtakingly “unfair.” some days are ugly. lost on a sea of my own making. others speak of healing if i choose to listen, look up, or put my hands in the dirt. and recently, right when i needed it, a dear friend sent a poem she wrote for me in the mail. she folded it intricately in the shape of a heart i can’t seem to replicate, but i’ve been carrying it around with me and reading it often..

 

i pray for rain

to wash the embers extinguished

to clean soot from my cracked, brittle branches

i pray for rain

thirsty for beginnings

exasperated by these false starts

and the cacophonic ticking

demanding attention to the stages

at which the hands on the Big Circle move.

i pray for reins

grateful for the anchor of a mate

when the strong tide of oblivion

pulls too often.

praying to let go

surrender & let you.

if i can let go

won’t it take me with it?

i pray for reign.

for sighs to come from contentment

not despair

patience from the all-listening ear

when?

why now?

for how long?

what may flowers bring?

they will bring color to the gray

we’ve grown far too accustomed to.

-p. cowell

 

remnants of a new life

tree ringsnew potsringsmerleremnants 2olive and the oakstackscaitlinnnlogsheirloom seedslogssremnantslives

you’d have to be here to know that everything still smells like it’s burning. the heat of an early spring seems to magnify the scent that emanates acres of charred trees. i counted one hundred and twelve rings on the guts of a ponderosa the other day. i sat with it while the cup of tea in my hand grew cold and i cried. but i also bought new pots and fresh soil this week. i tended the beets, chard, carrots, and butter head coming up in our neglected garden and i felt better for a while. i cut my hands in four places digging through the shards of pottery, glass, and aluminum i’ve collected in the bottom of a ruined wheelbarrow and i made new things with what i found there. the daffodils are coming up in the same places they did last year, unencumbered by man made borders, and i’m praying my heart will soften as they bloom.