Archive for the Organic Agriculture & Horticulture Category

Misunderstood but Beautiful – Flowers as People

Posted in Organic Gardens, Poems with tags , , , , , , , , on September 12, 2015 by Drogo
Much of the beauty and value of the natural world will be missed,
and lost, if it is constantly condemned as unimportant, and destroyed.“
– from Garden Ramblings

In a very real way, flowers are a lot like people. Fragile, they are born vulnerable, and if fortunate to receive the proper care, will thrive and bear much goodness. However, many people, like flowers, are misunderstood. Some of us are late bloomers and get cut down while struggling to grow, while others of us may express ourselves in the wrong way, or the wrong place, and are criticized.

True, it is about the world of plants and flowers that I mostly write, but the connection between humans and the natural world being what it is – ever constant and essential—it is ofttimes impossible to separate the two. Many of our greatest writers and teachers refer to nature, recognizing the wisdom that is to be gained if we but open our hearts and our minds to it. Many of these people have been misunderstood as well.

Four of my very favorite wildflowers are the lavender bergamot, rarely seen anymore due to mowing, the shy blue chicory, the wild asters of which I have 4 species on my property, and the tall rarely seen white and yellow wild sweet clovers (which look nothing like clovers, but are in that family). Both chicory and bergamot are blooming profusely right now here at my Mystic Meadows and I can never see them enough. The wild bergamot has cross pollinated with its relative the gorgeous red monarda, creating two new shades of purple and maroon. I am blown away by their beauty and their usefulness. Standing very still by each large cluster of flowers which are shoulder high, the hundreds of flowers seem literally in motion with the activity of hummingbird moths, various butterflies, and bumble bees large and small. Of course, even a hummingbird cruises by for a nip on the way to its favorite mimosa tree. Sadly, I see very few honey bees this year.

Chicory is the most tenacious wildflower I know. It tends to grow right up against the country roads people drive down in their early morning rush to work or school, gracing our journeys with their joyful blue color, brightening our moods if we but see them. Even when mowed down, they grow right back, undeterred. If permitted, they will bloom right through the summer into fall, providing nectar for bees and later, essential seeds for small birds like finch. They usually close their blue petals during the heat of the day, and so are seen as ugly by most people as they have tiny leaves and look spindly when their petals are closed. But oh, when the day is cooler and the flowers are open, behold the powdery blue profusion !

Wild asters spend the entire summer growing slowly into tall, elegant plants full of elongated leaves. There are 4 varieties which I grow throughout my gardens, and the reward for my patience is a glorious, end-of -summer show of tiny, daisy-like flowers, a final bust of white and purple beauty which goes well into the fall. These plants, besides being a welcome source of inspiration for me before the long, cold days of winter, serve as essential nectar and pollen for our bees. Without these wildflowers the bees could easily starve in their hives. Goldenrod, which I will write about in a sequel to this article, is also significant for bees, and even butterflies, to stave off starvation. It is and has been mostly misunderstood as well.

Many years ago I was enjoying the beauty of my back road where, unfortunately, the white and yellow wild sweet clovers were growing embarrassingly close to the road. They are somewhat guilty of looking gangly, like some people I know, and were very tall. I knew they would eventually be mowed, so I decided to cut them with more care by myself. So, I went home and came back laden with an arsenal of cutting tools, only to loose my resolve when I put the blade to their stalks. I thought to myself “what is more important, the flowers or the road”. I had observed very few of these particular flowers being permitted to grow anywhere, so I put down my weapons and joined the ranks of the misunderstood. After that day, they moved themselves to a safer place. They now grow, undisturbed, in various spots on my property. Plants come to me that way, and I welcome them with open arms !

I love the late bloomers and the misunderstood ones, be they human or flower. Perhaps our biggest challenge in life is to embrace these ones, to accept them as amazing creations on this miraculous planet which is full to bursting with diversity. I leave you with an ancient Indian quotation I love which reflects the awesomeness of it all…” Flowers are the footprints of the dancing steps of God.”

Now off I go to enjoy the rest of this glorious summer !!

by Christine Schoenemann (Maccabee)

Christine is a Master Naturalist in the State of MD.. She welcomes any questions and feedback at songbirdschant@gmail.org

GARDEN HELP (Shadow Black Cat)

Posted in Organic Gardens, Poems with tags , , , , , , , on July 10, 2015 by Drogo

by Christine Schoenemann (Maccabee)

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Wishing for a shadow

as I do my morning chores…

Another “me” to follow

lifting buckets of manure.

Like a streak my little black cat

races past me down the path.

I smile…

he makes me laugh.

After watering I go into the house,

and there he quietly sits,

My shadow…

beside his dinner dish.

My garden help,

little Black !

Smoothies

Posted in Food & Drink, Green Fashions, Health & Fitness with tags , , , , , on August 23, 2014 by Drogo

Smoothies are awesome!

Use fruits and vegetables in a blender to make a smooth healthy drink.

Any fruits or veggies with milk, yogurt, or ice-cream all not over 3/4 full in a blender.

Blend. Put in pitcher container and refrigerate.

WAR WEARY : Turning to Nature for Solace

Posted in Critical Commentary of Civilization, Homesteading, Memorials / Obituaries / Epitaphs, Poems, Rhymes, Riddles, Spiritual with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 10, 2014 by Drogo

August 2014

There is no one on this earth who is not affected by all the wars, and rumors of war, these days. Of course, all through the history of mankind there have been wars and rumors of war, and according to some thinkers and writers this is how it will always be, forever.

However, that is not what I want to debate, or discuss. I only wish to convey a few of my personal feelings about how war is affecting people, all people, and the natural world upon which we depend for survival. Whether people are aware of it or not, those in the muddle of the Middle East countries, or here in the USA where we are not hearing air raid sirens daily, we are all affected. There is not one thing on this earth that does not affect another.

Now how can I say that ? Aren’t we insulated from the worst of it here in America? Actually, we are not. “Whatever happens to the least of these happens to us”. Some very wise person said something like that 2,000 years ago. Actually, the words are more like this: “Whatsoever ye do to the least of these, ye do also unto me.” No wiser words were said.

Most natives of America thought along the same lines. They were natural ecologists, born and bred with “all our relations” in mind as a way of life. Some wise native said that we are all connected, that what befalls one part, affects another, and more…that a great sadness would befall us, as human beings, when there are no more sounds of nature and we loose the company of wild creatures. They are here for our use, but also to uplift our spirits with their amazing beauty and diversity. The earth and all of its inhabitants are a profound miracle! So, as I look around at what war and materialism have done to the natural world, and are doing, I feel a great sadness that I cannot seem to shake.

Such is the sadness we all feel on different levels, whether we are conscious of it or not. We are all war weary. Weary of wars between each other, and war against the natural world. The earth itself is weary too, its water, its air, its swamps and rivers, its plants, its butterflies, bees, birds, the polar bears, and on and on. Shall I list every remaining species?

As I wandered my gardens this morning, picking dried peas for next years planting (now there is an act of hope) and herbs for a healthy tea I need to make, my thoughts were solemn. What if there comes a day, due to rampant human ignorance upon the face of this beautiful earth, what if someday, there is no pure air to breath, or clean water to drink, or swampy breeding grounds for myriad birds and amphibians to thrive and procreate. In Syria, Gaza and Iraq,and many other places around the world they are already experiencing serious problems, and my heart bleeds for them. Innocent, hardworking people, with children and old people, all suffering due to the ignorance of their leaders. There is no clean drinking water and poor sanitation is pervasive. Swamps are drying up, rivers and lakes polluted. The inhabitants are war weary, and so am I, and so are we all. So is the Earth….

Yet, there is always hope. There are people doing their best to keep the balance between … and I will say it as it is…good and evil. To water it down, between dark and light, life and death , is stoically philosophical, though true. But this is not a philosophical exercise. This IS a war, another sort of war, a genuine fight for survival, and not just for survival of humans, but for the entire delicately balanced ecosystem.

So, how not to groan and lament the demise, the poisoning, of such a gift? Why are we throwing this precious gift back in the face of the Giver, the Great Spirit, as well as our OWN spirits. Doesn’t , shouldn’t, everyone know that without the purity of the earth, we will all sicken and die, together, some sooner, some later? I suppose some people simply do not care enough, or think, or feel for that matter. If egotistical ignorance and materialism continue as they are, and if misguided leaders feel only hate and fear, then we are doomed indeed.

Am I war weary.?… You bet ya I am. So are you. Now, what to do about it ?

I say, turn to the purity of nature, and fiercely protect and nurture it, wherever, however you are able. That is our only salvation, our only hope. Then someday, when we are truly weary of this life, and it is our time to say farewell; with forgiveness in our hearts for those who knew not what they were doing, we will die in peace knowing in our hearts that we did the best we could.

Walk Lightly, but with a strong walking stick…

~ Christine SCHOENE Maccabee

CSM 3

Thin Veil … A Chicken Tale …

Posted in Farming, Homesteading, Memorials / Obituaries / Epitaphs, Sustainability with tags , , , , , , , , , , on July 28, 2014 by Drogo

THIN VEIL  …A Chicken Tale… of sorts…

There is a thin veil between yesterday and today, between our present moment and our past moments, between our experiences yesterday and those of today. Something happens in the present moment and WHAM, there we are again facing our past head-on. Something happens that we are not totally in control of, triggers a sad or a happy response, and we are suddenly reliving our past, immersed in similar / familiar sorrow, or joy.

Sometimes it is nearly impossible to distinguish between the two, between our past and our present, as they are such an integral part of the fabric of who we are. There is no way to consciously control what comes filtering through that thin veil, between then and now, and all the emotions trailing behind the memories. I guess the best we can do is acknowledge the veil, and then try to embrace it as a part of who we are, both the good and the bad. For example….

Last night I was so busy I forgot to close the chicken hatchway. My body was so tired, my knees and arm ached from the days activities, and I could not wait to fall into bed. Just as I was drifting off, I heard a chicken shriek, and I knew what had happened. Pissed at myself, I jumped out of bed, threw on my robe, and rushed down to the chickens. Golden girl had been slaughtered by a fox, and poor Red was beside herself, looking around warily and squawking. I pet her and comforted her and little Belle, my blue egg layer, even as I tried to comfort myself.

Old memories of loss of precious birds came flooding back as I kicked myself for forgetting. But I had to stroke and comfort myself, understanding that I was exhausted and overly tired from a huge day of music playing and car driving. I was consciously taking a small break last evening from all my responsibilities, watching a movie and emailing friends. I was so relaxed and spent, that I forgot to protect my chickens, one responsibility I forbid myself to forsake. I had let my guard down, just as I did the day my yurt burned to the ground last year. Yes, such things have happened before and no doubt will happen again. I will mourn the loss of my lovely gold chicken who laid huge brown eggs. Later today I will do as I have done in the past with other good birds. I will take her body to the field for the vultures to feed on her, I will bid her farewell, and I will go on with my life. Yes, there is a thin veil between yesterday and today.

What is that saying that I really did not like nor completely understand? “The more things change, they more they stay the same.” Now I understand the meaning of these words. They apply appropriately to this latest episode in my life here as a mini-homesteader. And then there is the ongoing problem with a woodchuck eating my soybean plants and broccoli…yet another difficult perennial problem to solve. Nature is consistently indifferent and does not care about me. I tire of trying. Perhaps it is time to stop. I have no help here…there is too much for me to do…so what’s new? The thin veil, the triggers, are intact, there is no denying it. Nothing has changed. Would I really expect it to ? Perhaps that is my problem… I keep trying, and all I am doing is spinning my wheels.

Pretty morbid, mournful thoughts today. Thanks for letting me vent. See me tomorrow once the garlic is harvested and the blueberries and the peas are picked ! The Indefatigable will continue to pick up the pieces, get beyond the grief, and continue on with life with even more humility than before.

Humility…human…humus…hmm… Still, darn that veil. Would it could be a high, thick, impenetrable wall, protecting us from pain and sorrow !!

But such is the stuff of stories… I suppose I should be happy they keep coming !

CSM 2

Christine Schoene Maccabee – July 3, 2014

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Waiting on the Chickens

Posted in Organic Agriculture & Horticulture, Poems, Rhymes, Riddles with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 15, 2014 by Drogo

It was late afternoon, the time of day I make my 2nd trip down to the chicken pen to feed my three birds a 2nd time. It had been raining, torrentially, off and on all day, but I decided to get my attitude straight as I put on my long German cloak and rubber boots. Those things, along with my large pale blue umbrella, kept my clothes perfectly dry, and I was happy to feel the wind and mist against my face. Breathing deeply of the purest air, there was nothing going to bring me down on my afternoon jaunt to the chickens.

Opening the door of the coop, there they were, all wet and happy. It surprised me when I first observed years ago that chickens like to stay out in the rain, scratching in the mud to find that last little worm or bug. They some tough ladies ! As soon as I opened the door, they scooted out into their yard thinking I would be throwing the sunflower seeds and cracked corn out there in the puddles. However, today my new plan on this rainy day was to keep the food in the coop. So I poured it clanging against the side of the metal feeder, hoping they would hear the noise and come running back in to eat. That way I could then close their little hatchway door and they would be in for the night, earlier than usual. Unfortunately, chickens are just like children. They don’t want to come inside until it is nearly dark, and trying to force them in is practically impossible without a lot of squawking.

Patiently I leaned against the door jam, and waited. One came in, Ma Belle, but she didn’t stay long. Darn, I thought, it is pouring out there, the food is in here, and still they play. I did not fancy having to come back down again by dark, in the rain, putting all my stuff back on again so as not to get wet, being more chicken than my chickens ! And so I waited, calling to them in a high pitched, chicken-like voice, but they refused to walk up their little plank and into the nice dry coop.

Then it struck me. I was waiting on the chickens, in more ways than one, and I do this everyday, twice a day ! I am their dedicated waitress. I bring them leftovers from breakfast , lunch and dinner, things like cold oatmeal, apple cores, rice and beans, greens, chicken bones from the rotisserie, just about everything their little hearts desire…except the brussels sprouts. The other day I put several little cooked brussels into a hollowed out cantaloupe half, and all they ate was the cantaloupe, leaving a very thin rind. Somehow I didn’t think they would care for the b.s. any more than most people, but this was only an experiment, so I was not surprised or upset. Most children don’t like brussels sprouts anyway. I eat them because they are good for me and I am one of those rare individuals who actually likes them. Children and chickens, on the other hand, are not so easily convinced !

Back to waiting on the chickens. I had the revelation about my servitude position while waiting for the chickens to come in out of the rain, but then I grew tired of waiting. Going out into the yard with them, I nonchalantly and very slowly, went around behind them and gently shooed them in the direction of the ramp. Happily it did not turn into a fiasco, with no success, as it frequently has in the past. Likely they were considering going in anyway. Or perhaps it registered in their little brains that there was no food in the yard, so it must be inside the coop.

Whatever they were thinking, or not thinking as the case may be, they all ran quickly, squawking as they ran, up the tiny ramp. Quickly, I closed the little door, saying “gotcha ! “ Whew, that was easy, I thought. Thank God, as it was beginning to pour down rain again, and I was getting hungry. All wet and happy, the three little imps began to discover the food in the dispenser, and I was happy too. I said “Goodnight girls, thank you so much girls for your eggs.” (I always thank them) and then “see you tomorrow”, as I closed the main door.

Whoever said captive birds aren’t happy ? They are no more imprisoned than I am. We might as well be happy together. I don’t mind waiting on the chickens. I serve then and they serve me. Their large brown eggs are the best, and their manure helps my organic gardens to flourish. Plus, everyday they give me a reason to get outside one more time, rain or shine, and take a walk down the hill, sometimes wading through wet grasses with the feel of mist on my face. I might even have a little adventure besides.

Who could ask for more?!

– Christine Schoene Maccabee of Mystic Meadows

chickens 1

SCOD Food Cooperative Concept

Posted in Cooperatives / Communities / Networks / Travels, Economics, Organic Agriculture & Horticulture, Organic Gardens, Services, Sales or Trade, Sustainability with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 30, 2014 by Drogo

SCOD Food Cooperative ideas by JF & JT based on our post-bubble recession economic reality and independent personal finances:

“I have been exploring the idea of a virtual cooperative for the trade of services, labor, skills, and instruction similar to a cross between Ebay, Bit-Coin, and Linked-in with maybe a little bit of a D&D style.

I’m thinking it would work something like this:

A merchant would setup a standard merchant style account showcasing their skills, wares etc… in an online profile where they could search other merchant profiles. This account can be further refined as membership evolves to the trade guild level. Services or wares can be brokered directly or they can go into a bidding pool.Services or offering could be bid upon by others to determine a fair market exchange for labor, goods, and services as well as establishing a found for a virtual economic system.

Every account starts out with 100 ‘trust point’ credits to purchase the service, etc… from another merchant offering a different service and some other desirable arrangement. Once the transaction is completed by the service provider, the receipt of the service transfers a previously agreed upon amount of credits to the service providers account. Problems or disagreements will be mediated by guild leaders.

The virtual cooperative only works if people continuously participate to retain credits in their account.No money ever changes hands and credit cannot be bought directly through the web application. Every member is initially set up in the ‘commons’ until they have acquired enough proficiency to join a guild. Prospectus must be invited and approved by members of the guild they are seeking membership from. Guilds will be broken down into the various subtypes Artisan, Teacher, etc…”

 – JF

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We aren’t really left with any options. It’s at the point if we want health in our lives, we have to work for it. What we need to do is sit down and figure out the dietary needs of everyone who wants to be involved, plot out who will be in charge of what, and figure out an effective timeline that will keep everyone fed through the winter months. I’ll set up a wiki and link it to the SCOD group.

I’ll be hunting a fair bit this season. I can work to provide deer and turkey at the least. I’m good for beans and corn as well. the more the merrier. I’m going to create this as a private wiki, so I just need email addresses for those to be added.

So who (around here) would like to buckle down with me in a cooperative to feed all our families on organic, home-grown, locally raised, or locally hunted food? We’ll need to cover all areas – protein (meat and non-meat sources), eggs, fruits, vegetables, and grains. Mushroom growers are also welcome!”

– JT

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(see modern economic theory article – Post-Bubble Recession Economics)