Biblical Rains

As my memory serves me, May is always pretty rainy. Two years ago as my husband and I were planning for our early June, outdoor wedding I remember getting to the end of May after nearly 30 days straight rainshowers and wondering if I’d made a mistake not planning for anything but the perfect sunny day. As luck would have it, our wedding was the first day in more than a month the rain passed over. We said our vows out in the pasture, under the most welcome sun rays I can ever remember.

This May has brought a similar amount of clouds and precipitation, but with flood-level downpours included. After nearly 4 days of nearly non-stop pouring rains, flooding of local rivers and creeks, and some crazy winds it has finally slowed down. We’ve even gotten the occasional cloud break letting the sun have a go at pouring some rays.

Our garden beds held up swimmingly (ha, ha!) with no ponding, washouts, or other issues you might expect from record rainfall. A testament to the work we put into the soil. It both managed drainage and kept our plants nourished despite the near endless days of cloud cover. But with every triumph awaits a challenge and this time it’s been slugs. Prior to all of this I noticed the wild birds would forage through the garden beds throughout the day, eating bugs and probaby slugs. Even in weeks of more sane levels of moisture I hadn’t noticed an enormous amount of pest activity. Bring on the floodlevel rains and the birds tend to stay up in the trees more. The slugs had a true hay day in our greens bed. Near decimating our beautiful chard, very young spinach, and lettuces. Each leaf torn through like it was the last supper. One by one I picked them off. We elected to use an organic slug bait as well because I just didn’t think we’d have a fighting chance otherwise. It’s acute care, really, with the hope that as the weather resettles the birds can manage the few slugs that come on after this onslaught.

As I write, we’re about a week out from that madness. The slug activity has slowed as I’d imagined it would. Clouds loom today, with a few welcome breaks of sun. My basil starters have taken off so I added those to the beds this morning in place of the bolting radish that’s clearly over this wack weather. As I picked through each of the beds I noticed flea beetles on the eggplant starters. I’m trying out an all-natural DIY spray mixture recommended by Farmers Almanac and will write about the outcome as it unfolds. Hoping I’ve caught it quick enough that they don’t become a big problem. I’ve got a few more basil coming in that I’ll probably plant parallel to the eggplant in the hopes that it prevents the flea beetles from spreading too far. As I’ve said before, always a dance this gardening business. Sometimes it’s elegant and other times it’s more like running barefoot across hot coals.

Closeup of slugs on lettuce biblical-rains.jpg

Gemini Twins

This is our first spring in our new house. I’m still learning the rhythms of nature here. Still discovering the beings that also call this little space home. Every morning Isaac and I (or Matt) head down to the back yard, so he can take care of his puppy dog business. We see all kinds of creatures - squirrels, rabbits (lots of babies right now!), crows and various song birds. In the evenings I like to sip an herbal tonic on the back deck and watch the sun lower just west McAfee. That’s when I see bats, an occasional racoon, and hear the robins giggle just as the light fades into darkness.

One morning when we first moved here we spooked three does snoozing down in the ivy. Something I didn’t expect to find in our little urban space. Back at the farmhouse we were used to the herd of 15 that had a routine daily traveling pattern. We were used to watching fawns nurse in tall spring grass and call for mom when she’d been away too long.

Those are the magical moments I love, that I dreaded missing when we moved into town. It is nature’s rhythms that ground me, make me feel whole and a part of a bigger story beyond my own. Where I find alignment and my truest source of self.

Changing spaces on earth did not fade this for me. It made me realize that my awareness is engaged in nature, that no matter where I am, I am whole.

As Isaac and I were out one recent morning, I sat at the edge of a garden bed to pick through weeds while he collected olfactory data. From my periphery I noticed something down at the end of the yard in the ivy moving around. Larger than a rabbit, but quieter than a cat or dog. We both sat, still as stones in the morning light, waiting to see what would emerge. To our delight, a pair of twin fawns just hours old and still wobbling appeared at the edge of our yard.

For days they stayed in the safety of the pines and ivy - secluded from the noise of urban existence. As Matt and I were working in the garden, the fawns began to bleet for mom. Just moments later she tore down into the yard, ears perked and eyes searching. We snuck quietly back inside, letting her nurture in solitude.

The following morning as I was out on the deck for my morning meditation. The doe appeared quietly, slowly making her way around a few shrubs. With a bob of her head a fawn appeared and began nursing. The fawn’s legs spread wide, stablizing her tiny body. Her little tail flicking with seeming joy as she nursed her belly full. The doe licking and nuzzling her the entire meal. When she finished nursing, the doe walked back to the edge of the fence and waited for the fawn to bed down. The doe jumped the fence and waited once more for the fawn to bed down. She’d take a step, and look back. Not leaving until her little babe was safe and settled.

These twin fawns arrived just as the moon was shifting new and settling into Gemini. As I pulled the lovers card, ruled by Gemini. I lay in bed and listen to them take turns calling for mom; these two, all legs and lungs. My cells vibrating with instincts. I’ve been meditating a lot on what it means to exist as a female. On creative energy. On our innate nature to nurture. On love. All of this, manifesting into this moment.

fawn and doe behind trees fawn sleeping in ivy twin fawns walking in yard fawn peeking behind branches twin fawns in ivy

Spring Freeze

Gardening is an endless conversation with nature. Forever being humbled by a force much greater than myself. Forever learning this waltz. She steps, I step… maybe one day it will look prettier.

It’s May and this is the third night here in Southwest Virginia that we’re covering our garden. The beds are completely full with 15 or more varieties of vegetables and herbs. All of which me or my dad started from seed. My tomatoes, nurtured from seed started in March, have truly seen better days. We’re covering everything with borrowed (much gratitude!) tarps and moving blankets. It’s working with bricks and strategic arrangement; perhaps one day i’ll upgrade to proper row cover.

The mild winter led to a wicked Spring. Wet, cold, and windy beyond compare. Whatever nature is balancing, she’s working hard at it. Discomfort is nature’s way of moving the unmoveable, eh.

Soon the sky will glow and the earth will warm. The pale leaves will brighten as they absorb color out of the sky; bouncing green back, to give my retinas something to get excited about. They’ll flourish once more. As we all do, enouraged by the light.

I, Shakti

I cycle with the moon. We run in parallel, she and I.

I see her as I back bend pre-dusk, watching me over the roof; both waxing onward.

I see her in the evenings, glowing through the crack in the curtains, straight into my pupils dialated in the dark.

She is a force. I am a force.

Day 21 and I’m filled to the brim with Shakti. Divine feminine, creative power consumes me. Who am I now; creator.

I sip blood-hued tonics and delight in the endless layers of beauty around me. I am drunk on my own light. Euphoric.

Planting seeds and pulling weeds, singing ancient poetry all the while. The crows answering a divine call from pine perches. Guardians of my garden. This is alignment.

Day 28 we’re filled and glowing and our power moves all the water. Svadhishthana. Pulling cup cards from the tarot day after day after day.

Day 29 I’m hungover from the trip. Now waning. Settling. I’m soft and calm. Turning inward.

I feel reborn and pure. Joyful and knowing. Living to the rhythm of the next phase. Cultivating the beginnings of creation once more.

woman doing balance pose in river

Contentment

Earlier this week I was out in the garden late in the afternoon. The sun was dipping low, flashing between the pines. I was working in one of the tomato beds. Removing volunteer grasses brought in by the straw, and pulling various weeds and things. Gently tugging and dropping. With the lift of heavier items the soil broke open, revealing the ecosystem of business it supports. Worms of all sizes whipping back into their dark home, tiny spiders scurrying to and fro, roly poly bugs crossing over the openings. Lost in observation, in the feeling of cold soil in my warm hands, of being. Running my hands across the tomatoes I started from seed, now rooting into the garden bed. The sweet smell of summer sticking to my skin, teasing my nose into telling my mouth to start planning for sun-soaked tomatoes. I did not hear the far-off noises, I didn’t hear my mind thinking about anything I needed to do. I just was. I just am.

I am enough. My life is enough. Everything I have is enough. This is contentment.

I think in our modern society it’s somewhat frowned upon to be content. Everybody hustlin' as the daft saying goes.

Contentment is symptom of gratitude. Sometimes it takes once not having to be thankful for what you now have. Sometimes it’s simply a matter of taking stock of all that’s around you. Of the people you adore in your life, of lessons you’re learning, of being warm, fed, and with opportunity at your doorstep. Of things that bring you joy.

Before we eat any meal we give gratitude for the food before us. We know the many facets of effort involved from seed to plate. Gardening instills a sense of gratitude for life that is hard to explain in any other way.

Cherry Bell

I love radishes. I love them as a snack, in salads, and roasted. This is our first year trying them out in the garden and I’m both impressed and delighted. My only complaint is that I didn’t plant enough of them the first succession.

They are juicy, sharp and sweet, with the perfect little crunch. We sowed ours as soon as we noticed daffodils breaking through winter’s grip. They were a little slow to start, but are now cruising. I may have put them in a touch too early, but the excitement could not be contained.

We have 6 brand new raised beds this year and I come equipped with more knowledge than any season prior. This is the fun part of gardening, right? Growing with each season. My intention for this year is to promote and improve soil health and to experiment with companion planting. I’m beyond the point of reading about it all and now into the realm of creativity and intuition. I’m experimenting with mixing herbs and annuals in the beds alongside vegetables. I want to create a balanced system that makes the vegetable plants practically feel like they’re at a five-star luxury resort, just soaking up the sun and relishing in the beauty of existence. With blooms sprinkled throughout, I aim to encourage pollinators to come flying in, rewarding the plants with pollination like it’s a pina colada bar. (It’s COVID quarantine, and i’m still dreaming of our cancelled beach vacation)

Once you begin to notice the bright red radish popping up through the soil you know it will be ready for picking soon. Look for a good-sized diameter and healthy, strong greens.

As you can see in the photos, I’m using straw mulch. Just prior to getting it down (ya know, waiting on the wind to chill for a second) we had some radishes split. I suspect this was from the naked soil getting slightly dry, followed by a heavy drenching rain. The little radish swelled and burst. It still tasted amazing, but I needn’t the delicate things cracking on me. With mulch on, I’ve not seen it occur again. I’m partial to straw mulch at the moment, and it’s serving the soil well. It’s holding moisture longer (duh, not evaporating) and the soil temps are staying more even despite a few suprise frost-advisory evenings. The soil also looks gorgeous after a few weeks cozied up in the mulch. I didn’t line the soil first, so I am getting some grass growth. However, it’s easy enough to grab hold of, pull, and drop back into the soil (it’s also strangely fun and satisfying). Free organic matter, IMO. Last year I did burlap and liked it well enough. This year I just didn’t even think about it. We’ll see if I pay for it come late season.

Radish is a good balancer of Yin and Yang (warm and cool/light and dark) energies. With Spring comes Kapha (‘that which flourishes in water’, translated from Sanskrit) qualities of warmth, heavy, earthy, and transformational. Radish is perfect for us during this time, as we begin transitioning our bodies out of winter mode. If you’re still feeling winter’s chill in your bones, you can roast radishes in a bit of oil (I like avocado) with salt and pepper. This is one of my very favorite ways to enjoy them. If you’re still feeling winter’s cold chill, you may want to avoid cold and raw, as your body won’t have the heat and energy to effeciently digest it just yet.

I would encourage anyone starting out to give radishes a go. They are so delicious (even little Issac tried to sneak away with a bite…) and give a good boost of encouragement when winter lingers on.

dog sniffing radish cherry bell radish in garden bed closeup of radish in garden bed radish-4.jpg cherry bell radish in garden bed

Tomatoes Are In

Yesterday afternoon I planted 12 of our tomato plants in the raised bed gardens. It took me a few days to debate over the perfect timing; too soon and the cold will stunt the growth; too late and the high heat of summer will challenge the fruit.

Under warm but cloudy skies I dug small holes into the raised beds. The soil has been covered in straw, awaiting their arrival. For each scoop of soil I lifted out, 2 or 3 lively earth worms were there, wriggling in the light. I’m sure they weren’t thrilled to be unearthed, if even briefly. Can’t say I blame them. It looks right lovely in there. Deep color, lots of aggregates, moist, and smelling of sweet, rich earth. The most lovely soil I’ve ever had the privilege of dipping my hands into.

The tomatoes are a mix of three different varities: black brandywine, black cherry, and yellow pear, all of which I started from seed. The black cherry were seeds I saved from last year. We bought the plant from a local greenhouse in Buchanan, VA and really loved the flavor. The black brandywine are a heirloom variety that we’ve grown before. The fruits are big and beautifully purple with a really lovely, balanced flavor.

The yellow pear are another favorite of ours, low in acid, sweet, and delicious raw or sauteed. Our Ameraucana hen absolutely loved finding these. She’d fling one around with her beak until the flesh tore open, revealing the juicy seeds. Then she’d gobble the whole thing down; all the while giving a warning cluck for the other hens to forget about even attempting to take it.

This is my third true season growing our own plants. Because of the timing of our move, I didn’t think I’d be able to pull off starters this year. However, our budget is small and I had all of the seeds and soil on hand. I had to at least give it a try. As if by fate, this has been my most successful starter year to date. As with most things, learning requires time (to attempt and observe the outcome, if nothing else), and persistence. All of my transplants so far (tomatoes and cabbage) have not shown a single sign of transplant shock. In seasons past I really struggled with shock - not only with my plants, but also purchased plants. Primarily I witnessed wilt, which they’d eventually recover from, but the stress involved on the plant always felt like an unnecessary setback.

What I observed this year in the plants prior to transplanting:

  • A steady rate of growth
  • Strong central stems (early on when I separated the tomatoes from one shallow pot into larger single pots I buried the stems up to about a 1/4" from the leaves. This allowed for deeper root growth. All the fuzzy hairs on a tomato stem are capable of becoming new root systems).
  • 1 or 2 of the tomato plants experienced a little bit of sunburn on the leaves. At one point I had them covered in a box with plexi to block heavy winds. I think the direct sun hit a couple of them through the plexi and caused this.
  • Vibrant roots. Releasing the plants from the pots, just before moving them to the ground, I found the roots to be plentiful, thick, and very bright white. The roots appeared to have a soft, fuzziness to them, all branching deep and downward with some wrapping around the perimeter of the pot’s walls.

As I placed each plant into their designated areas of the garden, I felt a strange sense of letting them go. I’d grown quite accustomed to our daily routine together: check, water, move from indoors to out, water, protect from too high of winds, and monitor growth from seed to strong plant. My energy mixing with theirs, readying them…and perhaps me, too… for this moment.

With each plant tucked into their new places, I pulled the straw up to the plants, like a well-worn quilt, and gave each a good soak of water. They look beautiful nested in the raised beds. Our routine together is different now. On to phase II you might say. And here in the coming months, all this energy and care I’ve put into these plants will find its way back to us as we’re nourished in the thank you’s reaching out of blossoms.

Small tomatoes in starter pots

Morning Reflections

The thoughts swirl and then settle, like a snow globe shaken for a season and then set aside.

Soften the face, the eyes, the lips, and tongue. Like a drawing of curtains, the light pours in.

The tip of my index finger touches the tip of my thumb; gently, like in the way butterfly wings were attached to the thorax when the creator built the prototype.

The connection a closed circuit.

Awareness moves to the tip of the nose, to the pineal gland, to the crown of my head. Down my spine, to my seat, rising and settling in the space around my heart.

Like a red carpet set just for me - visions of light and bright blood vessels nourishing my body. All the organs are joyful and clapping.

I’m glad I came today.

Spring Is For Greens

I spent the afternoon re-organizing our “greens” bed. Pulling the straw off, lifting grass and henbit out and sorting through what’s what. Seeds shift in the wind and rain, moving out of the perfect line you hope to create. Or perhaps the earth worms and Armadillidiidae have some kind of game they play called, “rearrange the seeds, as to confuse the lady.”

This season we’re growing rainbow chard, buttercrunch lettuce, and bloomsdale spinach as our greens of choice. By the looks of what I thinned today, we’ll have far more than a family of 2.5 (2 humans + 1 shelter puppy turned mama’s boy, whose meals I make) can possibly eat. A surplus for friends and family. The greens are only a few inches tall, but I’m already salivating. They look so beautiful and delicious. Colorful and crisp. With everything reorganized I think we’re in the ballpark of 30 or so plants. It felt so nice getting all the plants put into order and tucked back into their straw cover. We’ve also got a big long row of chamomile coming in, another first for us. I drink only two things: water and herbal tea. I am excited to add to my homegrown herbal tea selection and hopefully have extra to make gifts with. Lettuce in garden bed

It’s always a bit tricky starting something new from direct sow. When small, the spinach looks pretty darn similar to a tiny plantain weed. There’s really not a handbook (that I know of, anyway) for vegetable sprout identification, so I’m navigating it intuitively and hoping to get it right.

Cabbage starters also went in today, along with some direct sow bush beans directly behind them. It’s still a bit cool yet for the tomato starters to go in, so I’m holding out a couple more weeks for those.

Despite some unexpected frosty evenings, drenching rains, and super high winds, the plants are doing beautifully. This is the earliest I’ve ever had things rolling in the garden and it’s exciting. We’re barely into the season and I’ve already learned a plethora of new things. Because we started totally raw this year, and on our own property, we’ve been able to take our time in setting things up exactly how we want. The raised beds are filled with a garden mix (top soil, cow manure, sawdust, and leaf compost) from a local landscape store and tilled into the existing soil. While I’m currently keen on no-till management, my options were limited for getting started with the given timeline. Moving forward we intend to go totally no-till, implementing cover crops in the off-season, and ally planting with rotation.

I spent the last two months participating in Cornell University’s Small Farms online program, completing both the soil health and beekeeping courses. Both left me profoundly inspired and educated with so many new concepts (like cover cropping) to bring to our mono-family urban farm. This little space of the internet is my way of sharing our experience with others, so they too may find inspiration and health in their little piece of earth, wherever that may be.

closeup of soil aggregates in the garden closeup of buttercrunch lettuce in garden bed chamomile starter in garden bed lettuce in garden bed

Expansion

Energy always moving. In me. Through me.

Inhale expand; exhale contract; I find stillness.

Turning the soil with my hands; sweet and smells like home. Earthy and rich and vibrating. My cells talking with the cells in the soil. A conversation I can only feel.

Tiny seed sticking to my finger tip. Clinging for this brief moment.

The light in me sparks the light in it.

Dropping to the soil, life commences. Covered and warm. Hopeful and trying.

I watch, like a child, a million times a day for those first two leaves to emerge upward.

I lose count.

I am a nurse bee living my dharma.