Celebrating Renewal & Home-Grown Food

Breakfast and Journaling on our Back Deck
Balmy mornings are perfect for eating breakfast and writing on the back deck overlooking our gardens.

The Easy Breezy Longer Days of Spring and Summer

Spring has finally settled in New England.  Most days are warm and breezy, so we can walk around free from extra layers of clothing.  The children in our co-housing village have already kicked off their shoes and run around barefoot.  Days of sunshine coax daffodils and tulips to blossom.  The rainy days hold their own charm with the fresh fragrance and vibrant colors they bring forth from Earth as she awakens.  Tree buds adorn branches in an exciting array of soft pastels that will deepen as spring becomes summer.

When the sounds and scents wafting in through our windows diminish our powers of concentration, nature holds the antidote ~ we can regain our focus with a brisk walk to soak in the generous energy of the sun.  Adding to the charm of the season, longer hours of daylight give us extra time to relax and play after work.

Rewards for the Hard Work of Gardening

Blooming Rhubarb
Lush stalks of rhubarb are some of the first “fruits” of the growing season.

Springtime means longer hours to play, but it also makes the weeds grow taller and our gardens become jungles if we don’t spend some time preparing them for growing flowers and food.  I am grateful that my body is whole enough this spring to spend time in our gardens, working to clear our beds of debris and feed them with mulch.  I am also grateful for help from my daughter and her friends:  weeding our veggie beds, sewing seeds, watering and mowing the grass.

Love from the Earth

Chives!
Chives and mint co-exist happily in the small bed by the stairs of our back deck.

The Earth has rewarded us for our care.  Our spending time and attention on our gardens has created beautiful spaces for flowers, fruits, herbs and vegetables to grow this summer.  The rhubarb has ripened, mint leaves have blossomed for garnishing our sun tea, and chives have sprouted tall enough to cut some for sautéing in the skillet with vegetables.

Eating the satisfying delicious early harvests that have grown and ripened already gives us hope to anticipate a continued bountiful harvest this season.  Around the cycle of planting, watering and continued weeding, there is time to enjoy the critters who visit us often: frogs, snakes, grasshoppers, dragonflies and birds.  The healthy glow of our gardens and music of the chimes in the rock garden below our deck is sweetest for me at sunset.

Anticipation for the good things our Earth will give us is the result of a hope that is conceived from the combination of hard work, vision and trust.  Time and energy spent cultivating the spaces we’ve built for food to grow has already been rewarded with the blossoming of flowers and edible new life.

veggie beds incl weed fabric and gravel

Gardening Tasks Completed and Adventures that Await Us

The image above reflects the work I’ve done to transform our gardens into the spaces I envision them to become.  In addition to weeding and mulching the beds, other work has been done to the space around them:

  • The chicken wire fencing and trellises that have surrounded the three beds for the past 8 years were given to our chicken club to use in expanding the run around our coop.
  • One of the trellises was replaced with colorful red caging purchased last year.
  • Weeds were dug out of the earth and replaced with fabric, gravel, and slate to create a path for walking around the beds.

The tasks that we look forward to completing by the end of the summer:

  • Eventually, a stone wall will stand between our gardens and the swale in back of them.
  • More weeds will be dug up and replaced by fabric, gravel and slate.
  • Late-summer vegetable seeds will be sown in the middle bed.
  • Sunflower seeds will be sown around the periphery of the garden and in a dedicated bed.
  • Old, battered fencing around some of our bushes (e.g. hydrangea, black currant, sunflowers) will be replaced with fresh border decor.

The Journey Continues…

Over the course of the summer,  I will photograph the progress we make on transforming our gardens into places of deeper enchantment for my family and friends, and to celebrate the harvests that grow in our beds.  The fruits we look forward to celebrating in June are our strawberries.  I’ll likely include a recipe that features them.  See you next month!

 

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Spring Emerges Through the Snow

Delicously Nutritious Garden Salad!
A giant garden salad celebrates the season.

Of Fools & Showers

Happy April, month of Fools!  It’s also the month of showers that bring May flowers.  I’ve seen as many snow showers as rain showers this month, and this morning a light layer of frost covered our land.  Are we fools to think that winter has receded enough for us to sow seeds and expect plants to grow from them?  Luckily, there are hardy plants that will blossom and grow despite the frost.  Peas, kale and radishes are a few.

Inspired by the warmth of Easter weekend and to welcome the season properly, I made a large garden salad for my family to share last week.  With the salad we sipped icy glasses of sun tea brewed on my back deck and garnished with cinnamon, lemon, ginger root and mint leaves.

 

Purple Crocuses
Our purple crocuses tell us Spring has finally arrived!

Signs of Hope

Despite the daily fluctuations in temperature, the crocuses are finally making their appearance in gardens around our co-housing community, including my daughter’s flower garden.  There are also some at the bottom of my hydrangea bush and in my own flower garden.  They are not alone. Iris leaves are preparing to grow stems and flowers.  The branches of my black currant bush are laced with small green buds.  The moss beneath our feet is soft and earthy.  We can safely announce that the seasonal wheel has finally reached the end of its slow turn toward Spring!

 

Coiled Garden Hose
Garden hose ready to water plants

The Tools are Ready

Now that New England has seen a warm weekend perfect for planting, hoses are present in yards around the neighborhood, and in our community gardens.  My trowel, hand rake and kneeling pad now have a new place on my back deck, ready for the work that needs to be done this summer. 

My gardens will be busy making delicious organic food to eat, often straight from the plants.  I will be busy re-designing my gardens to be beautiful and inviting to visit.

 

CoCo's Veggie Garden 2018.jpg
My daughter’s garden bed for growing veggies

Staking a Claim

My thirteen-year-old daughter has been thriving since our return to home-schooling in February.  We have committed to radical unschooling with her and it’s been working well.  Her curiosity and love of learning have bounced back as she has satisfied her penchant for reading and spending many hours outside.  She walks dogs, climbs rocks and plays games with friends daily.

This year she has adopted one of our raised beds as her own vegetable garden.  She weeded it, planted seeds, installed a trellis, and is diligent about watering it all.  We look forward to working the the garden together later this week.

Growing and Climbing Like Vines

Blossoming Beneath the Surface

Happy Spring to you!  We’ve seen Pi Day, St. Patrick’s Day and the Vernal Equinox/Ostara come and go, yet the snow continues to cover the ground in New England.  We hope and trust that under the white shroud of crunchy crystals, the earth is preparing to bless us with a panorama of brightly colored buds.  The tender beginnings of flowers and leaves are ready to announce their presence to a world that yearns for their cheer.  The snow is ready to melt, and so are our hearts.

Winter Crop hoop houses
Winter hoop houses hold growing greens for our community to make salads

 

Growing Like a Vine

Global warming has dumped upon us a series of very unusual storms this season and many areas of the world are reeling from them.  Despite such phenomena, I believe that the earth will manage to deliver her cyclical rebirth through the flowers and plants that will sprout and become green.  The cold winter will recede to let her have her way with the world.

Vines are one type of plant whose growth pattern seems to run parallel to human development.   All types of vines begin small and tender like infants, in the form of fragile seedlings.  With enough sunshine and water they take off, running up trellises at light speed like happy growing children.  A vine is one type of plant that needs just an ounce of life-giving energy in the form of basic nutrients to blossom and run rampant.  With a moderate amount of encouragement, they blossom beautifully and reach for the sky.

Peas are one of my favorite types of vine, which love to climb toward the sun as they grow.  March is the time I usually sow snap pea seeds in my gardens.  I provide trellises to support the nature of their growth patterns and they reward me with beautiful flowers and a harvest of sweet pods full of peas to snack on.  Pea plants tolerate a wide range of summer temperatures, so if I plan well I can grow up to three cycles of snap peas in one summer season.

Ivy as a Symbol of the Vine Family

Peas are not the only prolific type of vine plant.  Pole beans and grapes are others. Gourds are also very fruitful, delivering their delicious creations at varying times throughout the summer growing season.  Watermelon is the sweetest of them.  Then there’s the yellow squash, zucchini, and butternut squash.

Painted Ivy
A section of ivy painted with acrylics by my daughter around our back door frame

Finally, there is the ivy plant.  Ivy’s fresh green leaves begin sprouting past their dried up ancestors in April, and by July the plant needs to be cut back so that it doesn’t crowd out everything else I’m trying to grow.  In the fall, ivy is a symbol of abundance that lasts the longest of all climbing vine plants before it succumbs to the hibernation demanded by winter.  Some have foliage that turn bright colors before they die, but most remain green.

To keep the essence of green in our homes throughout the cold winter months, my daughter and I have painted ivy around our back door frame.  The back door opens onto a deck with stairs that lead to our back yard, where our gardens are.  Below the stairs is a rock garden where ivy used to climb up the frame. Since I learned that climbing vines can damage any standing structures they latch onto and contribute to their premature decay, my daughter and I have taken to painting the ivy instead, using a stencil.

When the days become seasonably warmer, we will take our stencil outside to paint ivy on the wooden columns that hold up the deck stairs, to replace the climbing ivy that was removed last year.

Climbing Toward the Sun

Sometimes I find myself feeling akin to a vine.  With a little care, I’ll grow tall and leafy and climb around any support structure provided for me.  With the support of an ornate trellis to cling to, I will climb toward the sun.  The extent of my growing more branches and leaves depends on the energy that I take in and the height of my trellis.  From my growth as a vine, my leaves are the gifts I share with the world: music, writing, leading labyrinth walks, and giving love through cooking and baking.

What forms my support trellis?  I believe that eating well, giving myself enough rest, and doing what makes me happy are all parts of my trellis.  So are my friends, family and co-housing neighbors.  What materials work together to provide a support trellis for you to climb around as you grow?  Please feel free to share as a comment below.  I look forward to reading them.

We all can use the support of trellises.  Sometimes we are called upon to play the trellis for friends or family members who need our support.  Small nurturing gestures show love that encourages our fellow humans to grow fresh branches with many leaves that reach far and wide.  Let us be trellises for one another in these challenging times.

My rock garden - featuring chimes
My rock garden while the ivy still grew there.  The two plans were good at reaching toward each other in favor of growing farther.

Three Spring Haiku

April Showers of Poetry

My Muse  has been good to me this month.  She has given me lots of inspiration for poems to share.  I am still working on finishing my epic poem, mentioned in my April blog post.  In the meantime, I wrote a few spring haiku and have taken some pictures to share.

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April showers fall.

Colorful new buds appear:

Green, white, yellow, pink.

 

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Bright sun warms the earth.

Time to dig and plant.

Happy gardens dance.

 

 

20170501_143558

Fields are green again.

Kids run around with laughter.

Night critters sing.

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Maiden Voyage

Welcome to The Gardener Dragon’s blog.  Step aboard to join me on my maiden voyage.  Sail with me to find fresh adventures, both in my home gardens and in gardens tended by fellow wayfarers.  Discover fresh ideas, recipes to use with your own garden harvests, and reflections on the way my family engages in home-schooling.  Exchange thoughts and information with me.  I am looking forward to having your company on my journey.  Welcome aboard!

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