How to Grow the Food You Eat
Soggy Creek Seed Co.
by Yan of Piebird
Join us for a Weekend Intensive
A FEW WORDS
ABOUT BEET GROWING --
For all of their ease and beauty, never discredit a good-mannered crimson-hearted beets’ ability to distress people. If the sweet words they say allure you as they have done to others many times before, there’s a few things you should know about growing them.
Beets have the will and instinctivness to compete and win over others -- which would make for their great success in the world if they were of the post-WWII generation, but this is a different time friends. Compassion rewards more than cut-throat restitutions. Remind them that perhaps the best fella in the garden is a fella who helps other fellas.
I’m not sure the origin of their black reasoning, they seem like simple creatures, but even a simple creature has deep mountains of complexities to which they are drawn. I’ve seen the reddish work they do. This ill competitive zeal will take over their life and take them over a cliff. Many become sadly deranged from competition and never survive in a way that is appreciated by wholesome beet-eaters.
beets are truly one of the only rootcrops that you must must thin. Remember this. Your crowded beets will be so focused on winning the sunlight that they’ll absentmindedly forget entirely about growing even the piddliest pip-squeak of beetroots (I should clarify that they can tolerate shade but not crowds). So don’t be afraid to thin them, the legend that vengeful beets will come to you and drink your blood is grossly exaggerated, don’t be scared to rip some out but do try transplanting them elsewhere in the row where seeding skipped. I know it will go to your moral-heart to pull up the dear things, but at least you don’t have to worry about no big beet boogyman ripping out your heart in the night as revenge. This modern classic of a horror story is entirely make-believe (but it does have its archetypal roots in the early human agrarian communities who actually believed a beet to be a human-heart misplaced -- fallen out of some poor fellow’s chest).
Bring your beets back to the untroubled realms! --
Delicacy of texture is a good thing in a beet, they can easily get such tough elbow muscles when they have to weasel-elbow each other for mouthfuls of sun. Have a word with them, speak to them about the goodness of being good. Let your correcting methods be thicker than just thinning, you must get them to understand and move past resorting to shouldering and shoving before the damage is done, before their life is wasted -- for yours too will feel squandered if you pull a beet and where you’d expect a beetroot there be nothing at all. Such sad feelings have no names.
If I tell you that the beets will easily listen to everything you say, my honesty might break but my larger objective would still be painfully intact. You have to try reasoning with them. Get them to relate to you. Push your ideas as far as they can go and still be within reach for the beets who extend for them -- try using humor, beets still relate to humor. Your beets are your little crazy children, ask of them to look to you for some good. Ask of them to stop pushing each other around and to let some quiet be in their hearts. While your beets are little, give them a little freedom from foreign growth and a freedom from clinging cousins. Competition can make a beet stringy and hard, just as the uneven watering from the ungodly weathers will. So thin them and after you thin them, make them a yellowtea of hairy-vetch, rich compost and starmedicance. This tea will pour deep where the crowders were removed and it will help clear away their stressing meddling thoughts of mishap-plausible missing kinship.
Astroid seed --
Contributing to their crowdedness is their strange seed configuring. A beet “seed” is actually an astroid-shaped fruit with about 3 viable seeds podded onto it. So at planting even if you space your beet-seeds like a decent human-being you will have to return again to thin (with successive thinning as they grow, thin to about three to four inches between plants). Coincidentally, the fact that the seeds are astroid-shaped surely suggests their place of origin. Really, should you be so entirely amazed? -- have you ever seen a wild beet here on Earth? No, that’s because they come from the stars. Your beet-row is sister to an astroid-belt. ...on their way to earth they stopped at Mars for a few years where they developed that colour in Mars’ iron-rich environment. That’s correct folks, beets are as native as a rhino! (rhinoceros remains have recently been found on the moon)
If you’re like many gardeners today you will be continually working to electromagnetically alter the gravity of your land, making it an irresistible motion of change and good progress for anyone who steps into it. Beets are a wonderful creature upon whom you can practice your good arts of inspiration and practice your methods of peacemaking. Along a beet row, there may be nothing in one stretch, no beets at all, but in an adjacent oddly chosen spot a whole mess of them, little and big, crowding each other and jostling. Beets exhibit a great inner will and tendency for life, but they also exhibit great inconsistencies of purpose and irregularities of ambition -- that combination of strong Qi (chi) but a lost and wondering way is the perfect condition for you to practice helping others. Remember, it is not necessarily the one who comes in contact with the largest number of beets who exercises the most influence over the beet-world. If you can help just a few beets, those few will help the rest. Beets are the lab-rats upon which you can practice helping others.
-- Your beets will surely be practicing this as well, they like to help and are good for adding minerals to the soil. Their leaves are composed of 25% magnesium making them a valuable addition to the compost piles (if you don't eat them all).
[[ Magensium is a component of the chlorophyll pigment which gives green to the leaves. The deficiency of Mg in the soil results in yellowing of leaf called chlorosis. Magensium is used in the metabolism of plants and is in our own enzymes. An enzyme is a catalyst in a living organism which speeds up the rate at which certain things change. ]]
But you must divest yourself as soon as possible of the idea that beets are entirely golden-winged creatures -- pole beans and beets sadly stunt each other's growth.
Beets themselves are helped by garlic and mint. Garlic improves growth and flavor -- and rather than planting spreading mints around beets use your mint clippings as a mulch (treating your spreading mint like a perennial green-manure crop will also lessen its chance of blighting in the summer heat).
Some other common things to watch out for in beets --
Seed-lull -- noun -- is when the germinating seed falls asleep again, into that deep preservation of time that seeds are know for. This can be contributed to their spirits (who have been in the dark for perhaps several years) getting lost in the sunlight as they emerge from the seed -- where they are they can’t tell. Planting before the drawing of the fullmoon will allow the beet spirits to emerge at night and thus ease into their first day of daylight after the warm-up-act of sunrise. Like you or I, beets have an affinity for bright sunlight (the best beet color and flavor develops under cool temperature with bright sun) -- but like you or I, if I were tp put a blanket over your head and then whipped it off on some sunny spring day a few years from now, the sudden shock of light might very well split your skull in two. Germination during the dawn of the fullmoon will prevent seed-lull.
Beets like warmth --
and like to avoid any great heat or cold. Frost is okay as long as it’s not ridiculous -- but when beets mature in warm weather, they have less sugar and are lighter in colour, they taste more of earth and look more like potatoes. Fluctuating weather conditions produce lighter rings in the roots. If you are a child it might be fun to keep a calendar of weather and then compare it to a dissected cross-sectioned beet’s rings at harvest.
Now that you’ve put it all together and found out that a beet’s growth fluctuates with fluctuations in soil moisture, I hope you use this information sensibly. Slow, irregular growth is okay. It is important to remember that beets need not make continuous never-changing-rate growth (is that the way you grow? -- really? -- you didn’t take one giant leap-year forward in your development when you first heard Tommy James and the Shondells song “Crimson and Clover?”). Growth is a journey of wandering, meeting interesting companions, and of capturing truths that you can employ. Supplemental watering is boring to your plants, that’s over-parenting, like licking your thumb and wiping the dirt off their faces, poor them. Many things are taught to beets that would be far better for the beets to find out themselves. Let them whirl and get lost in the world and then meet a wise grasshopper one day on the roadside who will ask them one simple question, “do you want to be soft, or do you want to be supple?” After that meeting, if the beet is willing, it will grow erratically but never hard -- even if it hardens in the teenage years, it’ll mellow out when it hits the 30-day mark. Kids want to be so tough today, follow their lead be a tough beet-parent.
So promise me you won’t be a hero --
you’ll only tempt yourself with the wateringcan of relief if dryspells fall during germination. You must be content to only lodge the seed and then rain may come or sun may shine. If you’re looking for something to do, improve the soil aeration beside rows -- good soil structure will ease their growth as much as watering. Then mulch of course. Sprinkle some finished-compost below the mulch if you think your soil needs added nutrients and a lowering of the short-term acidity (as beets grow poorly in acid soil) -- they’ll tolerate low fertility but beets generally use boron inefficiently and boron is less available in soils with high pH (a deficiency in boron can be indicated by corky black areas in the roots). Boron aids in the plant body’s ability to use calcium, magnesium and vitamin D (dietary sources high in boron include green leafy vegetables).
Tell me more about Beets --
How to choose which beet to thin? --
Read what William Blake takes us through in “Songs of Innocence and Experience” and you will be able to tell which beet to pull, you’ll know which beet has the possibility of forward momentum and maturity -- and which is indifferent or only partially interested in life.
Talk to them like you have the surrounded. Let your voice reach them...
Darling beets --
you are born to this world to find freedom. You have the natural good-gifts to find it. Potatoes belong to the era where they could find freedom on a railroad (or in dark and dirty underground societies). Your world is different now, freedom must come from within and not from over there. Take the good from the past and leave the rest behind, there is danger in shaking loose old dreams. Just be sure that whatever work you do, a good beet does it. However you get your goodness, none here will take it from you. If it’s madness that corrects you, be it. Or domestic or culinary arts, be that. Have faith in yourself that you will believe it all, everything, someday - you’ll know how something as small as a raindrop can keep you alive. // Let’s all work as much as them, forever. Forever this time.
Beets are warm blooded creatures --
if you garden with a stone in your heart you will sink their good optimism. If you cuss or exhibit rudeness in earshot, they will shrink from you or summon forest creatures to come and eat them up instead. Behave decent and start sowing beets in the garden as soon as the spring soil can be worked. Continue succession plantings until temperatures reach 20°c. Beets can again be planted in late summer, 6 to 8 weeks before the first frost in autumn (they require 45 to 65 days to reach harvest).
Beets are wind pollinated biennials --
Different varieties must be separated by a major obstruction such as a thicket or a building to keep them from cross pollinating via wind. I grow my beets-for-seeds in with the rue and wormwood and them pull them and store at 5° c in humid location. Because beets are a biennial they will need to be stored over the winter in a cool area with high humidity. In the spring transplant the entire beet to its original depth, they will grow in height and eventually flower. Seeds are ready to harvest when they are dry. The entire seed stalk can be brought in to dry further before threshing. Beet seeds can remain viable for 4-6 years under cool and dry storage conditions.
If you don’t know a thing about gardening, good --
you will find it easier to relate to your plants, none of them know very much at all about gardening either. They have simplified mystical understandings of why they are here on earth but no straightforward grasp on the methods of gardening. No plant that I have every met was thoroughly versed in all branches of horticulture knowledge, for gardening is a human construct we add into the gathering of nature.
RADISH / CARROT / BUCKWHEAT / FOXGLOVE
Wearing foxglove flowers on your fingertip as you pull the oldwooded radishes will prevent the burn of Radish-rash. We plant radishes as carrot-row markers, also mixed with some buckwheat seed. The radishes are early and can be removed and eaten when ready far before the carrots. They also geminate in what seems like only a few minutes -- whereas the carrots dottle, perhaps exhausted from winter storage or perhaps now putting up some kind of objection to me planting violet and scarlet radish along their deep row of only orange. Regardless of reason why they dottle, the early germinating buckwheat and radish help mark the carrot-rows if hoeing is needed while the carrots are still invisible or near-invisible (be eased, as your soil gets less barren of top-mulch and less seedy with quickweeds, you will have to do early hoeing less and less).
Our monkeyminds have developed to “hark” quick in differentiating visual inputs. But as an upright homo-sapain, your eyes are fairly far away from the seeds -- so the visual-aid helps efficiency. Spending your entire gardening hour on your knees, albeit thrillingly enjoyable, becomes less productive as your garden grows into a field or a farm.
If it is indeed the jealousy that makes your carrots slow germinators, tell them to draw no stiff necks while crouching in the bushes of begrudgery, for the radish’s rosebush colour will only bless the carrot with a deeper orange. And oh I must make mention of the beauty of colour of the stock of the buckwheat, although I don’t think I can even possibly begin to describe the kind of red it is -- that red which is usually reserved for only tragic occasions but in this instance is entirely pleasant and thrilling. The buckwheat’s red stem is the mule that pull all other Beauty. Such inspiring colour can only do wonders for your carrots, be sure to tell them. Hanging around with earthworms can alter in perhaps a lessening way one’s sense of what you have to be to be beautiful. With buckwheat and radish beauty surrounding them, the juice of hues will rejoice in your carrots. Perhaps inspiring that contagious beauty is another reason for wearing foxgloves on your fingertips while planting the carrot/radish/buckwheat mix.
Let the broadleaf of the buckwheat grow if it’s dry and hot in your spring and summer. The welcomed Sunday-afternoon-shade it casts will ease life on your little carrots. And being like the legumes, the buckwheat will pluck nitrogen from the air and pump it into the soil via the nodules growing on its roots. Chop and let die for mulch any buckwheat that grows to block what sun you want on your carrots. The radishes too, for many radishes escape being eaten (there are only so many radish-pies you can enjoy). Like turnips, the old-age radishes give a poking gesture that can blister skin but which is deflected entirely by the foxglove-flower finger-gloves.
Carrot seeds --
are little burrs of uncommitted velcro who wish and hope only to hitch a ride a few meters unlike the common burdock that would like to go a few weeks. They are wishy-washy and easy-going with their destination. Buckwheat seeds are shaped like triangular newspaper pirate hats -- folded carefully by little children with big imaginations. Radish seeds are oblong sat-upon balls. For sowing these three together, the trained finger can distinguish between the three shapes at sensory-speeds that rival walking on coals. We’re living in a world of physical reality but flat images take up more of our time -- look to something real now-and-then and practice the delicate art of touching it, practice the fine motor-coordination of thinly sprinkling seeds. I have seen that garden-helpers lack most in agile fingertips. Humans now spend so much time satisfying other senses that the virtues in the sense of slight touch are ignored. These fngers are not wounded with callous, but are the fingers like shriveled umbilical cords of un-use.
Human senses --
This will begin in helping you understand what your role as a gardener may be, what assets and skills you have over a vegetable. For one, you have more senses than a vegetable. Probably four more, with they only having one. Actually, let’s also count the additional human sense of imagination. You receive inputs from sight, sound, smell, touch and taste -- this forms your reality. But there is also the streaming data coming from your imagination, it lights the way unknown to the other sense. Together these all influences your interpretations of the world. Plants can only tell the basic difference between light and darkness via vibrations. Much like a primitive under-deep-sea slug who operates only with the sensory of it’s slug-skin telling it which way is up (towards the light).
Plants have eyeballs --
Phosphorescent eyes that sense light and other growth forces. All plants do is sit around and sense the energy of vibration -- figure out what way the light is coming from and then head that way.
An ecosystem is a community borrowing from each others strengths.
Let the plants tell you what they feel from the sun or further --
and you tell them what beauty you see, smell, hear, taste and imagine. Oh and love, that’s another skill we’re good at. Tell your plants of the love you feel.
Of course if you wish to emit and receive love, gardening offers you delightful opportunity to bind fresh tender plant hearts to your own. The real harvest of growing is gathering all the love out of their little hearts. The plants you grow will be far too short to see your faults and they will leave you before they have acquired vision enough to do so. Consequently, you will be enshrined in their memories as overalls, a hoe and a halo -- they will see what you aim to be, rather than what you are.
Day to day there is the freshness of dew in the morning. Day to day you can better yourself and be as best as the rest. Day to day you will see your influence in your garden’s growth. The kinder the hand, the easier picking of fruit. The warmer the heart, the more earthworms awaken and toil below the topsoil. There are many forms of strange happiness you may have overlooked before. Come follow well.
The urge to grow your own food -- if it is in you, no binds can confine it. I’ve seen gardeners life entire buildings with superhuman strength to get at the earth underneath. Gardening is irresistible, fulfilling and irresistibly fulfilling. The wanting-heart also pumps its blood into the feeding-earth. The garden will call to you. If you have certain prejudices against work, don’t worry about the work, the work will seem to get itself done if you make the work your leisure. Your earthly chores are not run-around errands that can be chosen as circumstance may allow. When you are paying attention to your garden, what work needs to be done draws you. It gives you instruction like the morning birdsongs do. You may find yourself deep in experimental wondering one day (if you can train squirrels to chase away squashbugs) and then devoting yourself entirely and mindlessly to weeding carrots the next. Or maybe your garden chore of today will simply be to go meet all the new strangers of flowering beauty who opened in the night. I often find myself reminding my own self that it is time to garden either when I need it or when it needs me. It will let you know in no uncertain speak. What's best for the garden, is best for you.
In a garden, a smile quadruples, any nuisance of unwellness squirms away. Invincible disasters of weather become indistinguishable from beautiful memorable barefoot days with a brightness as charming as a peacocks voice or a nightingale’s tail. The embrace of sun, the sizzling of photosynthesis -- the sun, the essence of life, responsible for all the intense life under your feet, the sunlight makes each flower as fascinating as the next, as fascinating as the sun itself. Wonderful! Besides a garden, what else can you create while empty handed but with only the gentle grace of will and a few seeds?
Over the winter --
think up a list of things you would like to get done. Things that need to happen. These could be the things you hear everyday in the squeaking voice of the loose floorboard. Maybe on your list jot down something that you’d like to do for the land. In the spring after winter’s time on earth, plant your demands as seeds -- plant one seed for every thing you wish and every achievement you sniff for -- or plant every single seed in honor of the same desire, something that you want to get done, something so big that you might as well start out by doing something really small -- something small like planting a seed. Many people who plant by this “all for one” method plant each seed for Peace. Every seed becomes like an electric shock in the front lobe of our consciousness’ brain. Every seed brings us one day closer to the morning when we rise wide awake to Peace.
You can plant Peace with as little as one seed --
Stuff a seed in some dirt and pour water on it. Then say some hocus-pocus and squeeze out its lingering life into the light.
-- At this point, the seed still has no idea what it is. It could be growing into becoming a handbag, it could be becoming a doormat or a prize of literature. It does not know that it is growing into a cabbage. If you were to ask a seedling what it is it would be completely puzzled. No idea. Just guesses. Umbrella? Soap? Guinea Pig? Prison? A farmer? A whisper? A foolish objective? Cobweb?
Now’s your chance --
You can tell your little seedling that it is anything -- anything you want. This is how dreams come to be true. You can tell your little seedling that it is PEACE! Quick before it realizes that it’s actually a cabbage!
Growing Vegetables and Peace --
How do you know what all the good you can do is until you try it all? But when looking at the state of your garden and seeing what needs to be done, remember, one cannot do all the world’s work but one can do one’s own work. Likewise --
when looking at the state of the world and seeing what needs to be done, remember, one cannot do the whole world’s work but come can do one’s own work. Nothing I do myself will ever directly change anybody else. It takes so much external energy to get somebody to do anything. It’s easier if their urge comes from something they experienced themselves.
Try it --
Choose anybody you know or somebody you don’t and try to get them to do something, anything at all. Make it easy for yourself at first, maybe get them to do something small, maybe some small alteration to something they already have (that seems easy), maybe some small change. Try to instruct them and get them to incorporate some small habit into their day -- like gardening. It’s very difficult --
-- It’s much easier for everybody if they experience an event themselves, then have a feeling based on what they witnessed, and then decide to do something themselves based on that sensation they felt. We all have things in us that want to grow -- parasites, dreams, new tomorrows.
Peace will pop out of the these pea pods.
The enormities and errors of our agricultural system can be righted with no strenuous effort, no effort at all. You can help the world without a word, just by quietly turning some soil and planting some seeds.
Good Wendell Berry once said, "If we are serious about peace, then we must work for it as ardently, seriously, continuously, carefully, and bravely as we have ever prepared for war," -- but maybe that's not one of his better ideas. The more we are ardent with our preparations for Peace, the more likely it may turn into unpeace/unrest. Instead, once we individually have the willingness for peace we could just quietly plant the largest garden one can muster and tend. No need to cry for retribution, just fill your pockets up with seeds.
Lightly hoeing your own soil will topple the towering but tottering agribusiness and who knows what else.
Just quietly walk away from the grocery store and grow as much food as you can. The peace is in the seeds that you plant and tend -- and it'll spread to every plant, every field, every farm, and every family fed. Our roads will become narrow and slow because they'll be parading for peace down every shoulder.
The long honoured acts of good agricultural practice are stuck in the ground for us to find, in furrows only as deep as your hoe will go.
Eat Peace --
If your food is not Peace then it'll be more difficult for your life to be. We are all obliged to be peaceful, even though we are disposed somewhat by confusion and somewhat by greed to put ourselves before other things. Be Peace. Change is the courage you have, make what you want bring joy to all.
Put Peace on your plate. Put Peace on your fork. Put Peace in your belly. Let us have the capacity to acknowledge these little acts of planting seeds and the other milder forms of peace that are fashionable. Like smiles or gratitude. Let your garden be an example to imitate and a precept to follow.
DREAM LESS, GROW MORE
Take Action to Feed Yourself
Through our workshops, we've spent a lot of time identifying the obstacles perceived that prevent people from growing their own food --studying the imaginary barriers people erect that keep them from believing that growing a significant amount of their own food is a realistic endeavor. As humans, our brains work like ants on their way to a picnic, if you can identify your obstacle you can then get around it. Let us demystify these.
If you are serious about growing your own food, you must first IDENTIFY WHAT FOOD IS...
...You may need to flip your dinner-plate upside-down and start again in learning what real food is.
Eating IN SEASON means DOING WITHOUT. Going a winter with only the bit of lettuce we can pluck from the coldframes during mild spells gives me the motivation to grow greens as soon as I can -- we’re often eating ours a month before other locals have even planted their greens. It’s a motivation on the verge of desperation, it’s a wonderful asset.
The same motivation that makes you PUSH THE SEASONS is what will get you through the long evenings of PRESERVING the harvest. Of course Northern hardy vegetables we're talking about, rather than boxstore nursery seedlings. Edible perennials (sorrel sunroot nettle) too, and treating your biennials as harvestable in their second year.
Re-learning what food is about changing your habits, changing your tastes, and changing your perceptions of what the body needs. Do away with concentrated proteins, stop eating meat, eat your Canada Food Guide rather than read it. If we are considering ourselves a model for a sustainable future, that means imaging every single person will participate. We need solutions that include everyone. Meat is an inefficient use of land. Hunting of course also becomes unsustainable if you're suggesting everyone from your neighbourhood go into the same forest for the same purpose. When imagining a new local food system we must not resort back to the last model that worked for the pre-1950 rural homesteader. A sustainable local food system means that every able person must make an effort to grow a significant amount of their own food.
TIME ( lack of )
Time is legitimately screwy, more things are happening in less time.
Spend less time growing your own food than you currently spend shopping at the grocery store...
(when you add in all the hidden activities associated: taking out the trash from all the packaging, sorting the recycling, flipping through the flyers, coupon-cutting, waiting in traffic, waiting in lineups, etc.)
HOW?...by getting into the cycles of nature rather than working against them, integrate natural processes and controls. Gardening is observation. Observe and interact. YOU CAN SAVE TIME BY TAKING A BIT OF TIME TO OBSERVE NATURE, so you can better interact and design solutions for your particular situation. For example:
01 -- ZERO WATERING
We only water during germination and transplanting. Utilizing soil-shade and living mulch instead of watering (eg: Buckwheat planted in the carrot row for shade or let Sunroot stalks naturally fall on what you’d need to straw).
RETHINK everything you know about gardening. Disregard what you know about our climate, about your frost dates, about your soil. Forgetting is an essential human skill, getting rid of details we no longer need gives space for new information. Start learning again.
If your plants are thirsty, plant them a watermelon -- if they are hungry grow them a squash. Only water during germination and transplanting, instead rely on mulch and shade to prevent evaporation (compost tea of course is encouraged). The deep nutrients are never found if your plant’s roots have never a need to go seeking far below. Plus if you regularly water and then skip a couple of dry days it’ll be a great shock of thirst to them.
02 -- BRING NOTHING INTO THE GARDEN
When thinking about your soil I encourage you to steer clear of the word "RICHNESS" -- this will form your thoughts into shapes that are not conducive to understanding what soil actually is and that may urge detrimental actions. Instead use a word like "health." Language is important. As a baker, if you are being concerned with "richness" you might be tempted by those 1950s cookbooks to add easy sweetness -- and that's just not how we bake anymore. Adding easy nutrients to your garden is also an outdated practice. It gets you thinking about soil in the wrong way. Use different ingredients in your soil.
Easy soil growth is not good soil growth. Adding manure from afar and relying on questionable industries is like baking with refined sugar. But perhaps more importantly it uncouthly trains you to be looking for external solutions for your own situations.
Instead, grow comfrey. With four times more Nitrogen & Potassium than barnyard manure, Comfrey mines nutrients from deep in the subsoil, tapping into reserves that would not usually be available to plants. The leaves lack fibre so quickly break down with no Nitrogen robbery as the C:N ratio of the leaves is lower than that of well-rotted compost.
Thou shall bring nothing onto the farm to add to the soil --
I’ve grown up some now but have before like many fallen to the common and cheap way of improvement -- to begin reforming the world before you’ve discovered it. Many start-up gardeners add in a whole pile of crap before they even get to know their own soil. Important: Keep your soil amendments limited to only things you find on-site.
No bagged nutrients, no overpriced shit from the sea, no dust from volcanoes, nor manure from bad industry (only add the manure from love or friendship), no bloodshed on your beets, no salty seaweed on your beets -- it is more work to heal falsely-fertile land or land with crippled karma than it is to properly make-fertile good-standing but weak land.
It’s curious to watch how plants and people deal with the same problems. The plants wouldn’t ever care to correct any of the crookedness of their geography. Do only what your plants would do, we both know they are not going to borrow a pickup truck and haul manure from offsite or buy bags of sterile topsoil for their seeds. The wind chooses to go the direction the tall grass is leaning. Mining resources from elsewhere is no better than uncouth foreign policy of nations and is a great deal worse. Plus then your garden is not self-sufficient.
Blame ourselves not the SOIL --
If you have cold sniveling soil, won’t you look in it for some good. If you insist on blaming it for any shortcoming of growth, consider that it might be you who perhaps invested yourself in a lesser art than soil maintenance. To be rewarded at harvest you should have woven richness in the previous year. Moreover, generous ends can only be met with hard-worked beginnings.
03 -- UTILIZE NEGLECT
We practice integrated composting. Actually, integrate everything rather than segregate -- relationships support development. Realize more relationships than just companion planting. Always using small, slow solutions rather than quick, big systems.
Ecosystem edges and marginal lands are often the most valuable, diverse and productive elements in the system. Let your gardens get a bit wild and try to replicate this.
SPACE ( lack of )
The growth of our gardens was exponential. I'd argue all growth is. Gardening is growth: your plants grow, you grow as a gardener and more importantly as a person, and your garden grows too -- both in size and in health of soil.
01 -- Outgrow your space
Even if you only have 50sqft of growing space or just a balcony you can use it to the max and inspire your neighbours & influence them to be growing more as well, their bounty will overflow onto your plate. This is the most marvelous thing about humans is the exponential compounding effect that we have on each other. Your community is to be as you make it. Inspire.
We feed many people who indirectly/directly inspire us to grow such abundance of food. The inspiring B&B guests, the thankful produce customers, friends who never leave without a basketful. Your thankfulness and the inspiring things you do with your own life becomes a motivating force for the people in your life who might grow some of the food you eat. In this way you can work to feed yourself even when your space is limited. Pay with more than money, pay with appreciation and by building a human-relationship -- this is how you build a community that supports a local food economy.
It takes a village to raise a cabbage. But not a chain of disconnected cabbage-middle-men: the farmer, the seed company rep, the co-op cashier, the tractor salesman, the produce-marketing exec, the truckdriver, the wear-house worker, the grocery store produce manager, the checkout girl, the bag-boy, the car mechanic who got you to and from the store...
Even if you only have a small plot, if you make growing some of your own food a PRIORITY in your life then you will begin to seek out useable land, making it more of a contributing factor in your decision of where you choose to live and what you choose to do with your time.
02 -- One hundred miles is too far
We don't have enough producers in our community yet for us to be promoting the local food movement as the viable solution. Everything you need to grow the food you eat is within the distance you can throw a stone -- or a beet. Get some seeds, start with something that small -- the best opportunity for you to change the world, your community and yourself is in a package of seeds. Plant your own seeds, work your own soil and eat your own food. Making an attempt to grow some of the food you eat and by building your own relationship with food is the only way a local food system can begin to evolve.
COMMUNITY ( lack of )
If you are an eater of food, you should become a grower of food. If you are serious about growing your own food, the eventual goal becomes self-sufficiency. But that can be isolating and not necessary for everyone, it's really more "community-sufficiency."
Historically, we’ve gone from identifying as a community to identifying as individuals and now we need to start identifying as individuals within a community.
Gardening is about growing something more than food. It is about growing community.
...Anyone who has ever grown Zucchini and then wondered what the heck to do with them all knows this.
We’ve devalued the occupation of farming --
But also we’ve devalued food. You trading your daylight hours for money so that you can trade that money for carrots. This will inherently make you eventually steer towards compromises (cheaper carrots, or maybe fewer carrots, or maybe no carrots at all). Whereas trading your time directly for carrots draws you to wanting quality carrots and quality time.
Talking about eating local is not that same as eating local --
Identifying as a Locavore without really growing any of your own food makes it easier to compromise at the grocery store when they have only garlic from China -- shrugging and saying “oh I tried” while still identifying as a local food eater does not help.
We each CONTRIBUTE differently to our community -- but we can’t wait for a local food system to be established -- each one of use must act to feed ourselves.
Plants come from seeds. Great gardens comes from seeds as well, seeds of inspiration. Spread seeds.
How to talk to your teenage plant --
Your insides are not what your outsides are --
You are not who you appear to be. There are things in you, beliefs and ponderings, that rarely get out alive. In everyone there is an even partial understanding of life. We take the anarchy and illogic we see and mold it into something we could grab a hold of. This becomes the reality that you have created -- entirely personal and entirely subjective. We know according to only what we’ve experienced, what we’ve been curious for and then what we’ve been shown. Plants are the same, they follow their curiosity to a bunch of strange places, satisfy that curiosity and then move on to something else. There are things they need to know and understand.
The moss gets curious of the wool, eventhough I told it of the lily last season who turned to flesh -- such things get gossiped now, even the strangers know -- but there’s still a wondering growing on the oak, "what would it be like to be fleece?" the moss asks.
Plants are curious creatures --
as a gardener, the more curious you are as well, the better you will be able to relate. If you are not seen by your plants to be part of their cycles then you will be seen as an aggressor, they will be somewhat against you. If you are a satellite bobbing in and out of the orbit of your garden, the view in their minds will be to protect or fight-to-protect the status quo from outside influence such as yourself. You have to tame their trust, so you have to be real careful around these plant-individuals during this time. Their reaction is to protect their worldview which includes their own understanding of who and what they are. You have to fit into their understanding of the world. They know the wind, they know the rain, they know the distant cosmic forces, they know the bees. Be these thing.
Plants are spirit-based in their understanding of universe --
humans on the other hand tend now to be science-based. So if you with your big brain go applying what you remember from science class or what you have accumulated since growing up -- you will fail to reach their understanding and then fail to be able to understand yourself down the road when they tell you something. Establish a simple language, don’t come on so heavy and don’t hit them over the head with charts about the carbon-cycle. Plants have little interest in the workings of science, not even their own biology. Like all of us, we know only according to what we’ve been shown. Don’t throw heavy pinecones of truth at your plants, give them small tastes and then dazzle them with lures. Show them in the same way good teachers have shown you -- be a pinhole, nothing more.
Some of your ideas about gardening
may be a little heavy for a plant --
Take crop rotation for instance, imagine a plant coming to your doorstep telling you you’re living heavy on this land, look at all of the resources you suck and the waste you produce, the plant thinks you should leave your home for a couple of years and give the earth a break --
Plus your plants will say, “I feel uncomfortable about this, I don’t know, I’ve never heard of crop rotation happening like this in nature...” -- (Don’t worry I’m not going to badmouth all of your enshrined memories of garden-how-to) -- just remember to not come on so heavy -- I guarantee you, a plant’s spasms of imagination will not easily bend to accommodate your ideas. Imagination and Ideas are your job as the human element in the garden. In that way there’s room for you in the cycle. Introduce ideas and introduce them slowly. Share even your accumulated wonderings, the ones you know not yet how to use. Teach your lessons as little excited innocent joys -- inspire growth in your plants. It’s easy, just sit there and glow like roses do if they are early enough to catch a glimpse of the lilacs -- your garden will understand your glow.
Humans are capable of immense understanding and deep emotion. But the truth is -- it takes a huge amount of energy to get anyone to do anything -- it takes lots of understanding and lots of emotion. Say the emotion of concern weighs one pound, when you are fully concerned you emit a one pound block of energy -- so to get you to emit concern I have to present you with one-plus pounds of energy to get yours moving. This is simple Newton thinking -- if I’m going to get you to do something, I’m going to have to drum up a moon of emotion.
-- bear in mind that all of the universe is stemming from a single vibration going absolutely mad and interacting with itself as it goes off into standing waves of giant interference patterns (that we call reality and have somehow manifested as a three dimensional world). Whatever realities rattle your life, there is truly an energy relationship between us all. Everyone else you meet is yourself. So rather than the dire attempts of art -- or trying to leave lying around convincing enough clues to spark human emotion, ideas and eventually action -- instead of trying to change others, if I shock myself with with the energy of my own thinking then I can get an otherbody to have the reaction. Make sense? Convince yourself of something that you want to sink into your garden-plants.
Learn to Garden by Watching Winter -- Jan 20th --
A shinning mist of snow --
Just got back from a walk in Winter’s brute forest. By now Winter is just beginning to show her character. Before this it seemed like we were living in something else disguised as Winter -- something covered enough in freezer burn so you can’t quite properly identify it, “I think it’s a root-stew but it might be a pudding.” Now when Winter’s arrangement of ferocity disagrees with us otherwise-able-bodied-creatures, that is when things start to come strolling out of the slowness. Time slows down. You can feel it when you’re out in the cheerful snow and listening so intently to the silence. We can feel it when we poise ourselves in rocking chairs, writing scriptures on the hearth, counting down the night’s armful of split wood. The days and the weeks move as the same speed as the river and the creek. In the summer they flow at a good clip. In the spring they are a torrent. In Winter, the days and the creek move with a trickle. Perhaps things just move slowly in winter in hope that the light of spring will be able to track us down and in time find a way to our hearts.
One thing you’ll learn upon the road to becoming an efficient gardener is how best to use what energies you can feel today to your advantage in getting things done. The slowness of winter is the perfect pace for learning how to react calmly to the outside extremes put up on you --
When even the sunbeams are cold as ice what does that say about the gods? Is this justice or mercy or temper or glittering pain? -- ice-water that feels as sharp as diamonds? In Winter, Nature walks on her hind legs -- but when she rears her head and roars try rubbing her on the chin. Be not shocked with the sweet-faced calmness that then comes over her, for all parkas and scarves conceal hidden smiles now.
ART vs. Agriculture --
At one time, agriculture was the only art --
The energy you put out into Universe, how you expressed yourself, was limited to pastimes that directly supported survival. Everyone steered their exerted external influences toward growing some food and participating in community. Then humans slowly figured out how to spark imagination with prose or have a still painting squeak out an active emotion from an experiencing viewer. Now more people express themselves through art than gardening. More paint sets are sold than rutabaga seeds.
I would not stand between any person and their genius -- if they put their whole heart and soul and life into something then even if the world calls it doing evil, I cannot. But if we were to be scientists about it, if we were to identify the pros and cons, art would be the looser to agriculture my friend.
Growing food is a very fluid kind of a thing --
-- whereas the electromagnetic waves that wobble out of your penal gland while painting get absorbed by the cotton of the canvas -- albeit beautiful, but when you sow seeds, that creative energy your are putting out there becomes life.
It's happening again --
more and more are beginning to identify their total existence with the land they live on. Exorbitant acts of gardening!