Monday, May 26, 2008

...Hey there. Life continues apace here; today I did a bunch of top-wire along the deer-fence, which is SOOOO close to being finished. Eden and I are pretty close to transplanting all of our flower starts; we've given up on making garden beds and are just transplanting straight into the ground for the rest of the season, as we just don't have time. We're also due to meet and talk about our project together, both all the little tasks we have going now and our future for next year. Growing flowers has been great for us, as a way of focusing and motivating ourselves. But the main thing we're interested in is in growing/wildcrafting medicinal herbs. There are so many forms it could take, and we just have to sit down and pick a few directions to start with.

As the fossil fuel economy falls apart, and people aren't going to be able to afford or otherwise have access to pharmaceutical medicine, what are the really useful plants to offer to folks? Some herbs have been overly wildcrafted (harvested from the wild), to the point where the plants are now endangered. So we definitely have interest in growing those, as well as growing herbs that suit our climate. And then there's the whole wildcrafting side of things, which I'm probably the most interested in. I'd like to learn how to identify and harvest both herbs and edible plants, and I've really been enjoying going on walks around the land, taking in the different plants. The wildflowers are all out now, and it's pretty gorgeous.

I spent some time at a party at Trillium Farm nearby here, and met a guy who makes wildcrafted wines with his partner. The idea of making things -- wines, ciders, tinctures, salves, etc. -- with the plants that grow around here is exciting. The byproduct of that work is that I would get a much more intimate view of the place I live in -- not just the land I live on, but many of the neighboring places around here. I'd get to know which plants are where, and when they flower; and I'd get to be out in beauty alot. The Siskiyou mountain range that I'm in is the most ecologically diverse mountain range in the country, so there's lots to explore.

....It's been raining part of almost every day for a week now, after blistering heat. The weather's been warming up though, and today was great -- overcast, but very comforting for working. I've had my clothes out on the line for days now, waiting for the wet period to be over, and I finally went to check them out, only to find out they were totally dry.

....I received a wonderful book of haiku written by a friend from Zen Center, and I've taken to bringing along a little bit of paper and a pen around with me, in case the muse strikes me, but so far I've completely forgotten about it.

That's the newz. Please comment if you'd like.

Peace, Danny

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Hello again,

Another full day; Eden and I have been trying to create more beds in our garden plot and put our flower/herb transplants in there, starting at six-thirty in the morning and going till nine or nine-thirty (it's getting light at five now). This morning we transplanted yarrow, sweet peas and marigolds; on Tuesday we put zulu prince, orange prince (both daisy-type flowers), black-eyed susans and one other one I can't remember. Tomorrow morning we'll be putting statice and some others in. In the meantime our seeds have come up and are starting to grow -- daisies, clarkia, poppies, safflower, bee phacelia. Sunchoke tubers we planted have also started to come up, and all the starts we previously transplanted are doing great. We've planted about 11 beds of plants so far, and there are many more flats of transplants to plant out. It feels never-ending, and we haven't even started weeding in there yet. When I'm not out there, I'm feeling stressed and overwhelmed by the amount of work that has to be done. When we're doing it though, it feels great. I'd like to be doing more work on this project, but I'm constrained by the paid work I'm doing, plus all the household responsibilities, plus I just started dating a great gal in the area, plus, plus, plus.

There are so many projects to be done. We saw a deer inside the fence near the herb/flower plot this morning, which is the second one in a week, so we really need to finish stringing up top wire along the huge stretch of fencing that encloses the irrigated portion of the land. Then there's building work, which I'm not so involved with, but I'm going to start working on cutting back blackberries. I started in on some blackberries around a huge old apple tree that's in a gulch (called "Prince Gulch") near the herb/flower plot. I'd been wanting to clear the area around this tree of blackberries and dead wood, and today I put in a couple of hours, mostly sawing off dead limbs. My idea was just to improve the health of the tree (although it's doing pretty well on its own) and improve access to its many delicious apples (which I've never tasted, but I hear they're yummy). Right now it's pretty tangly. Anyway, we have some apple trees closer to the house that didn't have many blooms, so this tangly tree would probably be our main source of apples this year, since it bloomed quite alot this spring.

After lunch I worked with Matt on the farm, rolling out black plastic sheeting to mulch around the beds of strawberries that he's got goin' there. I really hate this because I hate using plastic, but it's pretty standard for commercial strawberry growing. I don't think I'd grow strawberries for this reason; my interest is in learning how to do things sustainably. Basically, we rolled out the sheeting over an entire bed of strawberries, stretched it taut and covered the edges with dirt, then Matt went along and felt with his hand for where the strawberry plants were and made cuts with an exacto knife, and I came along and popped the plants out thru the cuts. Now the whole bed is mulched except the little holes where the strawberries are peeping out. Matt and I had already been weeding the beds pretty thoroughly to get them to the point where he could make accurate cuts with plastic -- although he did mess up a few times here and there and made a cut where there was grass instead of strawberries. I'll be doing some kind of farmwork with him again tomorrow.

That's it for this installment; just trying to keep current here, and keep the flow of writing going. I'll write more soon...

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Veggie oil car fuel

Hello there,

It's six a.m., and I just came back from turning on irrigation in our herb/flower plot. Yesterday Matt finished setting up aluminum piping with overhead sprinklers, which we're gonna use until we have time to get the trenches between the garden beds properly shaped to use for flood irrigation. It's such a relief to have the piping in place for now -- trenching is a lot of work, and there's too much work in general right now to really do that in a timely way. We've got about ten flats of flowers sitting outside, waiting to be transplanted. And more inside the greenhouse that will go in soon.

The weather has changed dramatically, and we are supposed to have record high temperatures in the next few days. It also feels like the days have gotten much longer recently, with it being light enough to work at 5 a.m. now, although five-thirty is maybe a more realistic time to start.

....I've been working on setting up a way to collect and filter used vegetable oil from local restaurants to fuel my car. Last night in Jacksonville I stopped by a new restaurant, "Jazushi," and arranged to pick up their oil, which is very clean to begin with, which is great. The only downside is that they only use about 30 gallons of oil per month, although that could increase if the place gets popular and they have more orders for tempura. I'm doing this with Jen, a friend of Full Bloom who lives in Ashland and also has a car that runs on veggie oil. So it would mean about 15 gallons/month for each of us, which is about 300 miles worth of fuel for my car. Which isn't bad, actually. They have a 55-gallon drum in the back that they dump their used oil into, so now Jen and I have to figure out how transfer the oil into something we can transport back to her house. Probably we would put a bedsheet over the drum behind the restaurant so that the oil gets pre-filtered before we even pick it up.

I've been hearing that most of the restaurants in the area have been asked by various individuals or companies to give them their oil. And that's been reflected in the calls I've been making to places in Ashland and Medford -- almost all of them are spoken for, and only two maybes -- places where I couldn't get ahold of someone who knew whether their restaurant had their veggie oil available. Alot of the restaurants are giving their oil to companies who convert it to biodiesel, and some folks are using it like me, just filtering it and then pumping it into their car as purified veggie oil.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Hey hey, the end of another day.

The community had a "fun day" today at Trillium, which is a wonderful arts and ecology center about a half-hour's drive from Full Bloom. The parents put the kids on their backs, and we went hiking up through their gardens, past beautiful former trout farms and rustic cabins, meandering streams. The poison oak is really starting to leaf out, and there were lots of beautiful flowers -- trilliums for sure, plus bleeding hearts, lilacs, shooting stars, and some others I couldn't identify.
Trillium is one of my favorite places so far -- the little meadows, the crystal-clear blue ponds, water running everywhere. There's something so peaceful and quiet about the place. And the couple that own it, Chant and Susannah, are great. Chant is so lively, and his knowledge of the little Applegate area is so deep, including the natural world, indigenous and early white American history, and a long involvement in the environmental activist world to save the area from further logging attempts. Susannah I don't know as much about, but she's been very kind and gracious with me.

After the hike we picnicked at Trillium and then drove home. Then it was back out to the herb/flower plot with Eden to continue the work of creating beds and irrigation ditches. Both of us are feeling overwhelmed by the enormity of the work that has to be done there right now. In a few weeks, when the beds are all dug and the starts in the greenhouse are all planted, it will be alot more mellow -- just weeding, watering, then harvestin starting sometime in July. But now we have bed after bed that has to be dug out on contour, in order that the trenches between beds can be relatively level and not slope off too much. That way we can fill each trench full with water, and that water will seep its way into the adjacent beds, watering our flowers and herbs. It's hard because Eden's been gone alot, and I'm trying to work as much as possible on other projects here to make enough dough to support myself, and my work with Eden seems like alot, considering we won't be making much money off it this year. I wish we had started this whole process last fall, but of course I wasn't here then. So it's a big learning experience. We're thinking of taking a couple of full weekdays next week to finish off the planting/trenching job.

....Other than that, things are moving right along. Work at the common building continues to go apace. The foundation is done, and 12"-diameter, 22'-long wooden posts have started to be sanded, grooved and set in place to hold up the roof. So far four posts are up, held in place by brackets set in the foundation. I assume we'll have most of the rest of the posts up by the end of the week.

....We've been losing chickens to a skunk the last week or so. We've already lost some this spring to a coyote, so there's talk of buying some more, but I don't know when. Matt, I believe, is intending to shoot the skunk. The one night he went out to try and kill it though, it didn't show up. The skunk had made a whole in the fencing and killed a few last week.

.... We also finished the main part of the deer fencing last week, which was completed when Matt welded a top piece to the front gate. There's still top wire to do along some sections, but for all intensive purposes we are now deer-proofed! It allowed us to take down some fencing we'd had near the main house to protect some veggies and fruit trees. Also Ryan's planted out a bunch of vegetable starts -- lettuce, cabbage, broccoli. I sowed some flowers earlier and will probably plant them out near the house this week as well. There's a new kitchen garden between the common building and Ryan/Eden's cottage, but unfortunately half of it has been commandeered by the crew working on the common building, to be used to stack the wooden posts used for the stick-framing. So we have half the space we thought we'd have. But it's still alot of space.

Can't think of anything to say now. Bye!

Friday, May 9, 2008

Herbs and Flowers

Hello there,

Not much that's new to report. We've just about finished deer-proofing 30+ acres of land (the whole property is 282 acres). It's an enormous amount of fencing, as well as many gates, and all that remains is to string top wire along several sections; but we are deer-proof enough that we can start planting vegetable and flower starts from the greenhouse.

Eden and I planted our first seeds out of doors, and our first flower/medicinal herb starts, at the end of April. Matt tilled up a quarter-acre for us at the beginning of the property, which is a bit of a walk from the main house. But the soil is great. So far the flowers we've planted: plains coreopsis, various poppies, bee phacelia, clarkia, safflower, sunchokes (which are in the sunflower family), hollyhock, cardoon, daisies. Medicinal herbs: echinacea, yarrow, lavender and California goldenrod (which can also be used as cut flowers), and lovage. We also planted some excess cabbage for the community, so that there'll be lots of sauerkraut goin' on. Mostly we'll sell cut flowers to a local CSA and possibly other venues, and begin to build up a cache of perennial medicinal herbs for the long-term.

Another cool thing we got going there at the herb/flower plot, yesterday, was a hand-dug flood irrigation system, just like people have been doing for thousands of years. It took a lot of work, but basically the paths between the garden beds also function as irrigation trenches. You just turn the water on, irrigate whatever trench you want, and the water soaks the adjacent beds. Capillary action brings the water upwards as well as down. We're still having to water the seeds we sowed out there, but the starts, which already have pretty well-established root systems, get watered from the bottom up, and eventually all the plants can be watered this way. It's still very much a work-in-progress, as, there are places where the water sits too long, and there's more digging to do. And there are many more beds to create, meaning also that there are many more trenches to dig.

OK, that's it for now. I've been postponing journaling here, thinking I didn't have much to say. But I'm back on track now. Have a great day.