Dom and I are both sprawlers. Actually, Simmi is a sprawler as well. Dom has his bottles of mead and beers fermenting, along with lacto fermented veggies and pickles, Simmi leaves a trail of belongings everywhere and doesn’t like to throw anything away, and I have jars of things rooting or being nurtured on the counter.
I chose the north side of the house where our kitchen is because it gets some moderate light and won’t be too hard on my little water babies soaking up water and love.
I started my water baby collection back in March when my orchids were suffering. Our climate doesn’t offer any moisture in the air, and can be quite a challenge to keep injured orchids from dying.
On the right are my orchids last June, just coming to the end of their flowering. The blooms last through the winter and after the flowering stops, they go into leaf growth. I obsessed for weeks prior to relocating to New Mexico about how my six orchids would make it across the country in the dead of winter with no heat. Three survived the trip and three died.
In an effort to save my remaining orchids, I started the process of trying to save them in February, but it seemed hopeless.
I know it sounds ridiculous to be so attached to these little beings, but they mean the world to me.
After I wasn’t getting many results pampering them and seeing that my remaining three orchids were declining still, I chose to put them in a water culture, which is just a fancy way of saying that I keep them in a jar with a third of the jar filled with water. One of them is so pathetic that I keep her in a full water culture.
It’s working. Finally.
One of my orchids finally grew two new leaves. I’m waiting for the other two to start to sprout. It hasn’t happened yet, but I’m optimistic and I refuse to give up on them.
So, in no particular order, here’s a look at what’s on my counter:
The new leaf growth on one of my orchids.
The second orchid hasn’t sprouted new leaves yet, but I’m hopeful. She’s in a full water culture.
This is what she looks like in the water.
The third orchid. She’s juicy and ready to leaf. I’m hoping this month it will happen.
A clipping from one of my random house plants.
Rooting Rosemary. These were from clippings I got at the grocery store.
I love to see the roots of new plants that never had a chance to make it.
I LOVE this tree so much that I took clippings home to root them and plant them by our house. This is White Poplar. Back about 15 years ago when it was a medical mystery why I was sick beyond having Lupus, my doctor arranged for me to get allergy tested to see if mold could be tied to my recurring intensive care stays at the hospital. It turned out that I was indeed allergic to not only many different types of mold, but to poplar, willow, birch, (12 trees in all) different grasses, horses, guinea pigs, cats, and dust mites. I thought I was just allergic to the pollen with those trees until I went into anaphylaxis after drinking real birch beer. I finally identified the clippings as White Poplar and I wanted to know what the medicinal and food properties were. It turns out that poplar contains salicylate which is another compound I’m highly allergic to. It’s also in birch.
Now I know why I’m allergic to those particular trees. It’s the salicylates in the trees. I’ve gone into anaphylaxis with aspirin and ibuprofin. It’s not pretty! So, while I won’t be using any of the trees I’m allergic to for medicinal purposes, I will still be planting them. How can I not? They are so beautiful.
The pretty buds ready to send out roots.
Oh green onions how I love you! Did you know you can keep green onions on the counter in water and they will continue to grow for you? You can even clip down to a few inches above the roots and it will grow back for you. Next time you have slimy green onions that slipped to the back on the fridge, remember you can always put them in water. Don’t worry if some of the green leaves die or change color, because it is always setting out new green growth. The water needs to be changed every day or they will die from a lack of oxygen.
See the new growth? The old growth can be clipped with a scissor and used. Just discard any small portion of the green onion that is yellow or brown.
This lovely collection is Dom’s different brews. He has some natural beers and mead. All his brews are wildcrafted and pack a wallop if you drink too much! He did a first racking of the meads the other day, and it was pretty strong.
Dom’s kombucha. Behind one of them is a coffee kombucha he’s working on.
Transfering mead to a new container. Oh, and in the background you can see I also keep romaine lettuce in a jar of water. Only the base of the romaine touches the water. I don’t recommend keeping it in water if you won’t be eating it quickly. The water needs to be changed daily, AND if you don’t like to eat lettuce everyday, it will continue to grow. I once left romaine in fresh water for a week and it was not edible because the inner leaves turned bitter. If you’ll be eating it within a day or two of putting it in the water, it will taste fine.
So that’s what was on my counter. Next week the rosemary will be potted and put outside. I do have rosemary already growing out there, so I take more cuttings and root them as well.
“I want to do things so wild with you that I don’t know how to say them” Anais Nin
2018 has proven to be a profound year for me and we’re only halfway through the year. Our lives have forever been in flux due to my autoimmune disorders and severe environmental allergies to mold, but this year is of particular note. It was the year I ridiculously fell deeper in love with Dominic. I didn’t think it possible to love someone this deeply, and it scared me so much that I didn’t even know how to tell him.
I often think back to when we first met in 2002 and how as colleagues we enjoyed working together. It was a blessing to work with such a talented chef and healer. I would have never known back then that he would be the greatest love of my life. He has always been someone who encouraged and listened to me as if I were the only one that existed on the planet. The support he offers strengthens me daily, giving me the confidence to keep moving forward.
His unwavering compassion in the face of my ill health is everything to me. He loves me as I am, all of me. To be loved this way is a treasure. A gift that doesn’t seem to have an end to it. My life would be very different if he never invaded my soul.
I’m unsure how it happened, this new deeper love I have for him, but it rocked my world. You know how when you first fall in love, there is this infatuation and desire that can’t seem to be extinguished? It’s thrilling and exciting to look into your lover’s eyes and feel your heart race a little more as he/she smiles warmly at you. Well, I was disarmed this year and knocked over with this new wave of feelings.
In trying to express myself, I would start to shake, and then cry. I couldn’t get it out in a way that would make sense. I was a wreck.
Generally, when two people are in love, it’s kind of mutual…don’t you think?
I had to think about why I felt so emotional about falling in love deeper, and it hit me. Fear crept into me for the first time ever. I began to wonder if it could be possible for me to be more in love than he was. What happens then? Can one person be more in love than another? What does that look like? Self-preservation is a strong and devious advesary to deep lasting love and friendship, and I felt like I had some sort of self-preservation creeping up in my heart.
Self-preservation says to its selfish desires, “Don’t love too deeply or you’ll be vulnerable and exposed.” or “Only love as much as you are loved.” Self-preservation is something that Dominic and I don’t practice. Neither of us has ever felt the need to defend ourselves from one another or be on guard. And yet, here I was with self-preservation rearing its ugly head.
I put to death my self-preservation because it only leads to self-pity, selfishness, false motives, the need to be ‘right’, and the desire to further my own agenda.
Instead, I choose to fully accept this new deeper love I feel and lavish it all on him every day.
I thought this last move to New Mexico was going to break us emotionally. The traumatic events of leaving Maine three years ago broke us emotionally and stripped us of the ability to make sound decisions. We endured it together. Over the last three years, we have had to move a total of nine times. Most of the time it was because of my severe mold allergy or being electrohypersensitive. It didn’t break him, and it didn’t break me. This last move did the opposite; I fell in love all over again. He and I were exhausted, I had to recover physically from biotoxin illness, my lungs were not working right (they are still recovering slowly). We were (and still are) financially underwater. And yet, here I am stupid in love.
Beyond my own feelings of deep love and admiration for him, I feel he exemplifies what it means to be a father. He is always there for our children if they need to talk. He cares for his stepchildren as though he was their father from the day they were born. He stepped into the role of a father embracing my children as his own. They are his children even though they are not biologically his. When Simone was born, he didn’t emotionally distance himself from our other children but instead felt an even deeper bond to all of them.
He is their protector if and when they need him. He never pushes them or forces his beliefs on them. Instead, he gracefully loves them right where they are. His warmth, care, joy, love, laughter, positive outlook on life, generosity, and gentleness have had an impact on our children and I believe have even impacted how they choose companions for themselves.
I trust him fully. Admire him breathlessly. He is king of my world.
Back in August, I purchased a bunch of dying and very sorry looking vegetable starts to get my garden fix. I didn’t know which plants would make it, and I wasn’t willing to plot out whole garden areas for plants that quite frankly, might not survive. After observing for about a week and a half which plants I felt would make it, I decided to only plant the tomatoes, a few pepper plants, the parsley, rosemary, and a few eggplants.
We have a water softener at the house, and since I didn’t have an outside spigot hooked up with a bypass valve, I was sending Simmi outside to water the plants each day with treated water. That’s a big no-no. Essentially the salts in the water softener will interfere with the uptake of water by the plant. The salts can trick the plant into believing that it doesn’t need water, and basically the plants die over time. Since Simmi loves to water plants, she was going out watering the little starts still in their containers sometimes twice a day.
Even though all the plants were watered exactly the same, I decided that any plant with new growth despite being irrigated with treated water would be transplanted and that I would hope for the best.
Being that we’re in plant hardiness zone 5, I also chose to use slate slabs around the my little tomato plants to create a microclimate of warmth around each plant. The end result is that the plants did start putting on lots of new growth, and are now flowering and setting fruit. Since it’s getting more chilly at night we’ll be adding a few more layers of stone around the tomato plants for additional warmth.
I love coming out everyday to observe the new growth and to see the new blossoms. Planting so late in the season really had more to do with my own selfish need to grow things. My heart aches for animals, but I know in time we will acquire them as well.
I’m not sure if the fruit will ripen properly since we’re coming into fall, but I’m less interested in harvesting and more interested in seeing how such delicate heat loving plants do in the cold Northeast.
It helps me to plan for next year if I’ve had some sort of experience working with the weather conditions, the layout of the land, and the fact that the property sits on a HUGE slope. Its more of a very steep incline than a slope.
Even though the land has a steep slope, this whole neighborhood is filled with homes on very steep slopes. If we were conventional farmers this would feel like a nightmare, but luckily for me I’m not conventional. I enjoy a great challenge, and as I form thoughts for what could occupy this 5 acre plot of paradise, I’m immediately whisked away to thinking about Sepp Holzer’s permaculture. Terraced ponds, perennial species, and animals all working together within a closed loop system.
Here is an example of Sepp Holzer’s property.
Another part of the thought process is what kind of animals, how they would fit into the system, how they affect neighbors, and tailoring a plan that not only satisfies the physical beauty of a well thought out garden, but would be a gift that gives in season and out of season to all who possess the land. To me, that is the ultimate goal.
Our home in New Mexico was well on the way to becoming an oasis for the new homeowners. We didn’t do anything complicated, burdensome, or unusual to the naked eye. Everything we did was in the infrastructure well before the first fruit tree was planted. Having a passive water harvesting system in place allowed us luxury of only watering our perennials in the high desert once during the winter. That’s it. Of course we made sure our trees were all well established in the first few years, using a series of weeper hoses, but once we felt they were established and well rooted, we removed the weepers.
Anyway, being in Vermont is a whole new experience. We don’t currently own the house we’re living in, but that could change in the future. The land here is stunning, the view of the mountain ranges is amazing, and it feels like home to us. We’ve gotten the green light to plant a garden and even to raise some animals, but having a plan that would work for us and for the landowners is important. It would be a thrill to create something they would enjoy and it gives me the opportunity to keep nurturing the soil. I’m not a plant gardener, I’m a soil farmer.
There are areas in the wooded portion of the land that I haven’t even discovered yet. Forest gardening and animal husbandry fits well into a sloped wooded area. There are future plans for this property and the house, so any gardening I do will most likely be further away from the house and garage so as not to hinder any new construction that may take place as well as keeping animals as stress free as possible.
I’ll talk more about this at length as we get our first set of plans nailed down for the spring. I also like to keep things flexible in case plans change. I’m excited to go through our first winter here to observe the land, the snow accumulations, the different microclimates, and enjoy the beauty of raw nature at its best.
We won’t be setting up a CSA again, and we have no plans on scaling up our agriculture. I might think differently if we were moving to a turnkey organic farm, but I would never start from scratch at this time in my life. Maybe if I were 25 or 30, but I’ll be 47 in November, and it really isn’t in our best interest to try and reinvent the wheel.
All animals and the gardens I create will be for the benefit of our family and friends. Simple right? The most important thing for us at this time is deciding what kind of animals we want, because that will help us decide what kind of land we need. There are five acres here, and animals can be relocated to a new spot, but something tells me that yaks in our neighborhood might look a little out of place. Haha
Here’s the roundup of animals I dream of:
Between 5-10 Icelandic sheep. Icelandic sheep are a triple purpose breed, small and compact. They are great for dairy, meat and fiber.
15-30 Silver Appleyard ducks: A double purpose breed providing both meat and eggs.
Sebastopol geese for beauty and weed control. No we wouldn’t eat this variety. Although I do believe that every animal a person might have on a farm should be a double purpose breed with more than one function, I choose for the two purposes to be looking beautiful all day and night and weed control. That’s good enough in my book to supply as much organic feed as they need.
The Saddleback Pomeranian goose for weed control, eggs and meat.
A trio of Narragansett turkeys for grasshopper and bug control as well as meat. If ever there was an animal my soul aches for, its the turkey. These majestic and comical creatures are always a pure delight to have on the farm. They provide hours of entertainment, affection, and they have captured my heart forever. If you’ve never raised turkeys before, I highly recommend it. You won’t be disappointed!
50 or more black, blue or white Langshan chickens for eggs and meat. We have gone back and forth over whether to get meat birds such as a Cornish Cross or Dark Cornish, or to go with a large heritage breed. In the end I’m favoring the Langshan as a fine table bird. The fact that they also lay beautiful eggs is also a factor, and I’ve heard they make great mothers.
Three or four Nubian goats for milk, weed and bramble control. They also eat poison ivy which seems to be abundant in these parts.
Four yaks, for meat, milk and fiber.
A trio of Mangalitsa pigs for meat and charcuterie
I’ll stop there because I can talk for years about animals.
Because I wouldn’t be seeking to scale up any agriculture or to have a CSA, I can create the gardens I’ve always loved and longed for. The French Potager (kitchen garden). A potager is really a work of art in season and out of season. My French heritage comes screaming from deep in my DNA and demands that I create something beautiful. I love how my ancestors have decided to take hold of my imagination.
There could be nothing finer than growing all the fruits and vegetables needed for a classic french rustic meal. So in honor of my French heritage, here are a few lofty potager gardens that I dream of. Some are too fancy for my taste, but they are beautiful, enchanting and fully functioning vegetable gardens:
I’ll be adding another blog entry after this in a little while. Right now we’re waiting for the concrete company to come and fill our forms for the pond. So exciting!
About Evangeline aka Farmer Jane
Thank you for visiting my blog. I just turned 51 years old, and as I enter the next chapter of my life, I’m so pleased to be able to share it with all of you. I am a lifelong artist, writer, vocalist, crazy organic farmer, and own and operate Buffalo Mountain Coffee Roasting Company.