The Milkweed Diaries

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

June in the Garden

Elecampane in bloom

Summer Squash gets its groove on

Cucumbers and Globe Amaranth

Bee Balm and Wild Mint with Honeybee!

Balloon flower - a Chinese medicinal flower with edible roots.

Tomatoes ripening

Cardoon about to bloom


Black Futsu squash with pole beans

Medicine garden.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

2 Days. 7 Farms. Lots of Inspiration.

Old barn at Imladris Farm ... goats and chickens inside.

For the past two days, the annual Family Farm Tour has been afoot. The tour is sponsored by our beloved ASAP, and features farms of all sorts. So, Ali and Nicole and Christopher and I packed up our farm family and headed out down the highways and byways of Western North Carolina to explore some small farms.

It was exhausting and amazing. We visited Gladheart Farms, Imladris Farm, Flying Cloud Farm, Firefly Farm, Mountain Farm, Arthur Morgan School, and Mountain Gardens. We returned home inspired.

To top off the weekend, Christopher cooked up an incredible meal of the last of the fava beans and the first of the summer squash sauteed in butter with garlic and walnuts and served with a goat's milk white sauce over gnocchi. It was perhaps the best meal he has ever prepared in all the time we've known each other. I cracked open a bottle of sparkling Lavender-Rosemary mead I made last fall and drank it ice-cold with the aforementioned feast, and we gave thanks for the rich community that we live in, and the gifts of our own garden.

Here are some highlights of the tour:

Michael Porterfield at Gladheart Farms. Gladheart grows vegetables which they sell wholesale and through a CSA, and also has a small number of dairy goats and laying hens. All of their diesel equipment is run on biodiesel made on-site from recycled waste oil, and their hoophouse is heated using biodiesel too.

Christopher and goat friend at Gladheart.

Gardens, barn, biodiesel production facility, and chicken tractor at Gladheart.

View across fallow fields at Flying Cloud, a Fairview farm that runs a very popular CSA and always generates a long line at the farmers markets.

Tops of sweet corn visible through the packing shed window, Flying Cloud.

Fall starts in the hoophouse, Flying Cloud.

Christopher tries out a homemade planting contraption at Firefly Farm.

Border collie pup, Firefly Farm

Poultry at Arthur Morgan School, a Quaker-oriented school for grades 7-9 with a work requirement for students.

Grape arbor shading south-facing windows at Arthur Morgan School.

Shitake logs at Arthur Morgan School

View into the vegetable garden, Arthur Morgan. Jerusalem artichokes in the foreground; passive solar greenhouse in the background.

We ended the day today at Mountain Gardens, the woodland "paradise garden" of the amazing Joe Hollis. Joe and his apprentices cultivate 500 species of edible, medicinal, and otherwise useful plants on about two acres.

Wineberry trellis, Mountain Gardens.

Cob house built for under $100, Mountain Gardens.

Loveliest outhouse around, Mountain Gardens.

Cob cactus cultivation wall, Mountain Gardens.

Dried herbs, Mountain Gardens.

A small portion of the vast array of blend-your-own tinctures available at Mountain Gardens.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

So long, Spring, we hardly knew you

An unusually cold winter followed by an unseasonably hot spring has made for a strange start to the warm-weather gardening season.

Temperatures have been holding steady in the high-80s to low-90s for a couple of weeks now, and there is no end in sight--very unusual for western North Carolina. We're all a bit peaked and many plants that usually bloom all summer (foxglove, valerian) are fried.

Summer Solstice was on Monday, and yesterday I took most of the spring peas off of their trellises (one of many wheelbarrow-fulls pictured above) to allow the cucumbers to bust a move. It felt like a fitting garden transition for Solstice time.

It's summer for sure now. Squash. Cucumbers. Green tomatoes and peppers on the vine. Wilting, bitter lettuce. Browning peas. Blown-out arugula and mustard all gone to seed.

I'm learning how not to hang on too tightly to the things in the garden that have slowed their production or passed their peak. It's such a straightforward lesson from the garden, one that lends itself so easily to allegory: the things we can't let go of start to taste bitter and feel tough in our mouths. Time to sweep out the old and allow room for what's next. In this case: cucumbers.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Creature Comforts

File under: Things we wouldn't get to do if we had a Big Farm. Rescuing woolly worms. A photo from late winter/early spring that I meant to post back then but lost track of.

They were everywhere! We tried to relocate them to alternate warm spots whenever our gardening activities exposed them.

Given the onslaught of insects we've been encountering lately that DON'T bring a smile to our faces, it seemed appropriate to remember the sweetness of discovering sleeping woolly worms in the garden.