11.30.2010

Advent Reading: Day 3

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
   from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
 The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—
   the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
   the Spirit of counsel and of might,
   the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord—
 and he will delight in the fear of the Lord.

   He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes,
   or decide by what he hears with his ears;
 but with righteousness he will judge the needy,
   with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth.

He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth;
   with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked.
 Righteousness will be his belt
   and faithfulness the sash around his waist.

-Isaiah 11:1-5

11.29.2010

Advent Reading:: Day 2, George MacDonald

Come, saviour of nations wild,
Of the maiden owned the child
That may wonder all the earth
God should grant it such a birth.

Not of man's flesh or man's blood
Only of the Spirit of God
Is God's Word a man become,
And blooms the fruit of woman's womb.

Maiden, she was found with child,
Nor was chastity defiled;
Many a virtue from her shone:
God was there upon his throne.

From that chamber of content,
Royal palace pure, he went;
God by kind, in human grace
Forth he comes to run his race.

From the Father came his road,
And returns again to God;
Unto hell it did go down,
Up then to the Father's throne.

Thou, the Father's form express,
Get thee victory in the flesh,
That thy godlike power in us
Make sick flesh victorious.

Shines thy manger bright and fair;
Sets the night a new star there:
Darkness thence must keep away;
Faith dwells ever in the day.

Honour unto God be done;
Honour to his only son;
Honour to the Holy Ghost,
Now, and ever, ending not. Amen.
-George MacDonald

My Sulky Vegetables

It is cold. The trees, they drip, they overhang, they shade. The vegetable garden, it sulks. Escarole, kale, cauliflower & leeks comprise this seasons humble veg garden, and they are small green dots on a cold black landscape. I sowed a flat of mixed veg about a month ago. After they sprouted, while weeding & transplanting, I would conscientiously move them around the garden to hit as much sun as could be had in our little bit of redwood-ringed earth. And little good it did. Three weeks after germination and there are no true leaves, only the sad little green seed leaves atop the long white etiolated stems. The water cress looks particularly sad.
I suppose the lesson from all this is to sow seed for the winter garden in August or September. But  here in the central coast of California our most severe heat wave of the year came in September, with temps regularly over 100 for two weeks. Take that, lettuce and other cool season crops! I need to talk to more veggie gardeners in this part of the world to see how they handle the transition from summer to winter. Most gardening books are written for the east coast gardeners, with their classically defined seasons.
I am not actually complaining about living here in this fabulously temperate climate, mind. Only trying to feel my way through a new venture in gardening.

11.28.2010

Advent Reading: Day 1

"Advent......helps us to understand the fullness of the value and meaning of the mystery of Christmas. It is not just about commemorating the historical event; which occurred some 2,000 years ago in a little village of Judea. Instead, we must understand that our whole life should be  an 'advent' in vigilant expectation of Christ's final coming. To prepare our hearts to welcome the Lord who, as we say in the Creed, will come one day to judge the living and the dead, we must learn to recognize his presence in the events of daily life. Advent is then a period of intense training that directs us decisively to the One who has already come, who will come and who continuously comes."
-Pope John Paul II (1920-2005)

11.09.2010

The Man From Hippo Said It Best

The Man From Hippo
O Holy Spirit, love of God....descend plentifully into my heart;
Enlighten the dark corners of this neglected dwelling,
And scatter there thy cheerful beams!
Dwell in the soul which longs to be thy temple;
Water that barren soil overrun with weeds and briars,
And lost for want of cultivating,
And make it fruitful with thy dew from heaven.......

Come, thou hope of the poor, and refreshment of them that languish and faint.
Come, thou star and guide of them that sail in this tempestuous sea of the world;
Thou only haven of the tossed and shipwrecked.
Come, thou glory and crown of the living,
And only safeguard of the dying.
Come, Holy Spirit, in much mercy,
Come, make me fit to receive thee.

-Augustine of Hippo (Algeria/354-430)

11.07.2010

The Winter Vegetable Garden & The Flower Grower's Confessions

I don't know if this is a hopeless undertaking, but I am tearing my garden apart in order to plant......vegetables. I haven't grown anything that might be construed as a vegetable for many years now.
Raspberries, strawberries & herbs comprise the majority of my edible harvest each year (unless, like my 5 yr old, you count the sour grass....and I don't.)

Even though I graduated from a renowned institution dedicated to turning out organic farmers by the bushel, I've gravitated towards ornamentals. I don't know why, I've never been able to do things by the book, if they are training people for organic food production, I have to grow flowers & perennials instead. Ask my mom, it's always been this way.

But, I've been talking to some veg growers recently, and it's made me think more about this vegetable thing. In general, I like vegetables-there are even some of which I can't get enough; but I've never wanted to grow them personally. Over the years, I've blamed our garden's orientation to the sun (partial sun at best), our soil's tilth (poor & sandy), our climate (prone to drought). Also mixed up in that was an indignation at the higher cost of keeping a vegetable patch (fertilizers, etc) versus the low-maintenance life of most perennials. But I now realize that at the bottom of it all is fear.
Yes, I've been afraid  of growing vegetables.

Nope, nothing to do with The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. Or
Auf der Jagd nach dem Riesenkaninchen, as we sometimes like to call it.

What I have  been afraid of, though, is putting in all that time and effort, only to reap the harvest of weak, spindly slug fodder. It felt hopeless.
People who walk through life breezily offering their surplus of vegetables from the garden, or casually mentioning that they've spent the day canning this season's harvest secretly astound me. How do they do that?
I think I stick safely to my perennial flowers & herbs largely because they offer me a lot of return for very little input. Then again, maybe I'm just lazy.
Anyway, all that is changed now. I had a carpe diem moment a few months ago and subsequently have decided to transplant out all my perennials in my two sunniest beds and give the garden almost entirely over to growing vegetables. We'll see how it goes.
The Alchemy of Motherhood & Gardens
I'm a little behind with it, it's been hard to align the planets in order to get out there in the garden to work.
This is the alchemical formula I've come up with:
1 child in school 
+ 1 child's nap 
+ 1 clean house 
+ no one 'just dropping by'
+no rain
Add essence of no current exciting books to read,  and that equals approximately 1 morning spent in the garden. Which is sort of like making gold, and the elixir of life, rolled up together, if you think about it. I've spent most mornings gingerly digging up the lupines, clematis, verbascums, roses, flowering quince, lemon verbena, and all the other little straggly plants that need to move house in order to make way for the veggies. After that is removing the massive amounts of roots left behind (sorry!), amending the beds (lotsa lotsa compost) and then planting out.
Love Apple Farm
I spent the day over at Love Apple Farm yesterday, getting a refresher course on planting the winter garden. A beautiful property, off Highway 17 in the Santa Cruz Mountains. The morning view was staggering, looking out over the coast redwoods, watching the marine layer drift through the canopy of the adjacent scrub oaks. One of the things I love about visiting small organic farms is the way they are offset by the surrounding countryside, and how they seem to sort of stitch their way into the landscape.  Farm dogs wound their way around our little class, woofing and flopping and managing very politely not to walk on the beds.
I came away with a lot of information and some fine veggie starts-including a cheddar cauliflower of which I am prodigiously curious. For all its beauty and fecundity and good growing practices, Love Apple Farm is biodynamic, a practice derived from Rudolph Steiner in the 1920's. I almost want to call it a belief system. It's too complicated to get into, that will be for another post, if I can be bothered. All I will say is that I am not much of a fan.
But what I am a fan of, is the winter veggie garden. Kolhrabi, leeks, kale, cauliflower, water cress,broccoli, rapini, mizuna, arugula, cabbage-I want to grow it all! And if the rain lets up (and the children nap, etc) we just might have some veggies on our hands in a couple of months. I'll let you know!

Read Your Way Through the Garden: Choice Tomes From Garden Literature

  • A Book of Salvias by Betsy Clebsch
  • Botany for Gardeners by Brian Capon
  • Making Bentwood Trellises by Jim Long
  • RHS Encyclopedia of Plants & Flowers
  • Rose Primer: An Organic Approach to Rose Selection & Care by Orin Martin
  • Start With the Soil by Grace Gershuny
  • Sunset Western Garden Book
  • Sunset Western Landscaping Book
  • The Book of Garden Secrets by Patent & Bilderback
  • The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Botany
  • the Gardener's Table: A Guide to Natural Vegetable Growing and Cooking by Richard Merrill & Joe Ortiz
  • The Gardener's Year by Karel Capek
  • The Hutchinson Dictionary of Plant Names: Common & Botanical
  • We Made A Garden by Margaret Fish

lotsa latin: rosa's botanical & etymological ruminations

  • vespertinus: flowers in the evening
  • vernalis:spring
  • veni vidi nates calcalvi: we came, we saw, we kicked butt. This was printed on a T shirt I bought at Abbot's Thrift many years ago. It encircled the NEA symbol. I wish I knew why.
  • superciliaris: shaped like an eyebrow ex: sturnella superciliaris, the White-browed Blackbird
  • rosa-sinensis: species of Hibiscus: Hibiscus rosa-sinensis. Lit. Rosa of China, so named by British plant hunters.
  • placentiformis: shaped like a cake ex: discocactus placentiformis
  • nudiflorus: flowers before leaves show ex: flowering quince, magnolia
  • nivalis: growing in or near snow ex: galanthus nivalis (common snowdrop)
  • muralis: growing on walls
  • mirabilis: marvellous, wonderful
  • formosa: beautiful ex: dicentra formosa, a.k.a.western bleeding heart/dutchman's breeches/lady in a bath
  • carpe vitam: get a life
  • Carolus Linnaeus: Latinized name of Carl von Linne (1707-1778), Swedish naturalist considered the father of plant taxonomy. Whatta guy.