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Living Large at the Micro-Farm

new garden

One of the expansions I hinted at last week is ready for unveiling: Ta-da! Here’s my new garden-to-be!

I am thrilled about the space- 3/4 acre- though it takes a little over 20 minutes for me to get there. The saving grace is that I drive a greasecar which runs on waste vegetable oil from restaurants, so I don’t have to worry about the price of gas (and emissions-wise, greasecars are considered “carbon neutral” because the carbon dioxide absorbed by the plants grown to generate the vegetable oil exceeds the carbon dioxide released when the oil is burned).

Though originally very hesitant to garden off-site, I have come to embrace the idea. I worked my butt off this year trying to grow as much herbs and veggies as I could, and was sorely disappointed to learn my limitations the hard way. Space being the biggest limit (my house sits on 1/5th acre), sunshine the next.

This new spot is wide open old farmland. It’s so exciting to imagine what it will look like next year! I’ll have lots more herbs for my bodycare, moving me closer to my goal of self-sustainability, plus tons and tons of veggies!

Well, I will if all goes well. Wish me luck and good weather!

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Is it Garden or Micro-Farm?

Rescued this old post from my original (now completely lost) blog. I was glad to find it, so thought I’d repost it even though the timing is off- it was written in the Springtime 🙂

Here’s my husband Hawkeye just before he heads to the Co-op with a fresh harvest of Welsh Onions. This is our second “cash crop” this year, the first being pussy willow stems sold to a local florist earlier this spring.

Seems that it’s taken me awhile to realize what everyone else already knew: My herban garden has become a micro-farm.

Hawkeye always kept a vegetable garden and did canning. But for me, the garden was a hobby until I became interested in herbs. Then it became a passion. I started digging up ever-larger patches of lawn to make room for my ever-expanding collection of herbs.

I got hooked on herbal oils and salve-making, then started making all kinds of bodycare and perfumes. My stuff was so much better than anything I had experienced before (if I do say so myself)! The textures rich and luxurious; the aromas fuller, more complex and satisfying somehow.

Friends encouraged me to try selling my handcrafts at local craft fairs and farmer’s markets, and my business, Paradise City Herbal, was born.

So I’ve been growing herbs to use in my products for several years now. But it wasn’t until Richard, a micro-farmer I met on Twitter, remarked that I’m underestimating our efforts by calling it a garden, that I suddenly saw my backyard for the farm it is.

We’re growing so much food this year, and more herbs than ever before. We’ll have lots to eat, share, and preserve. Guess I’ll have to get me some Wellies and make it official!

Originally 05.15.2010
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Seeds of Hope

bean seeds

This is a difficult story of rape survivors in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. The current statistic is every hour in the day 48 women are raped. So in addition to the horrible death toll of war, thousands of woman and children are left injured, abandoned, despised by their families and society, and with no hope for a future.

But one woman named Masika, herself a rape survivor, is helping other women recover and rebuild their lives by learning to grow their own food. Bean and corn seeds, farmed communally with other women, are not only feeding their hunger but acting as balm for deep psychological wounds.

I cried throughout the 25 minutes of this show. The suffering is overwhelming. The message, though, sings in my heart. Seeds and working the land are our way back to hope, back to life.

Not to discount the superhuman efforts Masika makes in caring for everyone, acting as counselor and mother. It is a heavy burden on her. She persists, she says, because there is no one else to do it.

But the seeds are the tool she’s using to achieve this miracle of saving and protecting life. Having come to gardening myself as a means to reconnect with the natural world and live a healthier, more meaningful life, it’s a message I already understood intellectually. After seeing Masika’s story though, I feel this deep truth has penetrated my inner-most core and lodged in my soul.

Watch the show here

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Early Autumn Garden News

sunflower
Autumn Equinox, September 23rd

“It is a sad moment when the first phlox appears. It is the amber light indicating the end of the great burst of early summer and suggesting that we must now start looking forward to autumn. Not that I have any objection to autumn as a season, full of its own beauty; but I just cannot bear to see another summer go, and I recoil from what the first hint of autumn means.”   ~ Vita Sackville-West

 

The biggest news is Hurricane Irene. Unlike so many around us, we had very little damage from the storm. A couple of tomato vines and one sunflower were broken, and a tree limb fell on the mushroom shadehouse, snapping its wooden frame.

Hawkeye repaired the frame, I trimmed the vines and gathered the green tomatoes that had fallen to the ground, and aside from looking a bit windblown, the garden was back to normal….

 

Catch up with the rest of the garden happenings while grabbing some D.I.Y. recipes in the Early Autumn Newsletter- Just posted!

http://www.paradisecityherbal.com/Seasonal_Newsletter.html

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Dog Days of Summer on the Herban Micro-Farm

butterfly on bee balm flower
"Make your piece of this Earth into a garden. It matters." -- Richo Cech

We’re in the Dog Days…. Lots of heat and sun and practically no rain. The rain barrels are dry, so I’m dependent on my drip hose and city water (Yuck! Coincidentally, water-use restrictions have gone into effect in Northampton today.).

The plants are thriving as I’m drooping! Anise hyssop, basil, bee balm, calendula, catnip, cilantro, dill, echinacea, holy basil (aka tulsi), mints, motherwort, mugwort, st. johnswort, wormwood, and yarrow are filling the garden and my shelves as I dry, tincture, and oil-infuse them.

echinacea

Our veggie garden is starting to really crank now too. The kale, chard, and sorrel are still coming, and I’ve been picking green and wax beans by the pound!

“Ronde de Nice” and “Golden” zucchini (pictured below) are keeping me in squash, and the cherry tomatoes are slowly working up from a handful-harvest to a bowlful.

tonight's harvest

Always testing the boundaries of our sun-challenged little garden, this year’s “impossible-to-grow-here” veggies are mini-butternuts and yellow “Moon & Stars” watermelons. The vines are huge, defying my expectation that they wouldn’t amount to much. Crawling up along the fence and stretching through the garden, they’re covered in bee-filled flowers and little green fruits!

Next up is the construction of a new Winter vegetable bed, à la Eliot Coleman. It needs to be where a perennial herb bed is now, so I’ve got some digging to do!

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