A Giving Season…Even To Yourself

It seems too soon. It still gets dark so early. And even with these higher-than-normal temperatures, we know winter weather could descend upon us any day or night. We live in Wyoming. The only way to know the weather is to frequently look out the window. The garden may still look like Autumn. We have been so distracted with so many other things. We have all had moments of anxiety or frustration about income, prices, food, shopping, and health.

I want you to feel more in control, to feel productive, to feel joy, to feel less helpless in this world.

It is as easy as harvesting this fruit, simmering it, adding very little fruit pectin and sugar ~ this fruit ripens on the shrub or vine ~ and covering your pancakes with rhubarb-raspberry preserves, serving homemade grape juice, or elderberry syrup spiced with turmeric or cinnamon for common colds and flu.

All of the varieties of plants listed here have been grown at The Refuge Permaculture Center for at least ten years. They have proven hardy in both drought and Arctic cold, in salty clay and deep sand. They are long term low maintenance.

The plants sold from the Refuge Nursery here are of two kinds: plants grown from seed, cuttings or root starts from plants established here at The Refuge, and bare root stock from long-time primary suppliers. In both cases the varieties are proven and highly productive. I add varieties to increase successful pollination. As with all nurseries, the available plants are a little different every year, especially as I start new babies every spring.

In this season I have Gift Certificates available for Refuge Plants, Garden Visits and Permaculture Design and Plans.

Gift Certificates: If you buy a Certificate for plants in the Spring you choose the amount you wish to give.

Garden Visit Certificate: $50.00 ~ I really enjoy meeting with people who love their gardens and landscapes. I love brain-storming ideas, offering suggestions and resources, and problem-solving. These visits are scheduled for an hour but we generally spend more time.

$100.00 Certificate ~ This Certificate includes a written brief of the visit with suggestions and resources. This Certificate includes the 10% discount on plants from The Refuge Nursery.

Garden / Landscape Permaculture Evaluation: $ 200.00 This includes two onsite visits and a written report. A 10% discount on plants from The Refuge Nursery is included with this Certificate.

Permaculture Design or Plan: $400.00 Certificate. This Certificate includes four site visits, landscape or garden evaluation, design concept, implementation plan and 20% discount on plants purchased from The Refuge Nursery.

Tara Farm and Nursery Plants for 2022:

Folks with Gift Certificates will be invited to come to The Refuge west of Casper to select their plants when everything is awake, happy and healthy.  The following plants may be available for purchase with the Gift Certificates by the end of June. As with every year, the weather and Mother Nature have a lot to do with what plants will be available.

Fruit Shrubs: Add these to that windbreak or privacy hedge to begin to create your own Food Forest.

Western Wild Rose, Chokecherry, Elderberry, Red Raspberry, Asparagus, Rhubarb, Currants (Red, Pink and Black), Gooseberry, Grape Vine

Flowers and Grasses: These plants are usually available the end of July, adding some color just before fall and producing seeds to build your “Native Prairie” example garden or to fill in a former lawn area.

Rocky Mountain Penstemon (excellent for rock gardens), Prairie Coneflower ( Yellow, Yellow/Orange, Burgundy), Echinacea (Purple Coneflower), Blue Spirea (very good for late season pollinators), Big Blue Stem Native Bunchgrass (Ornamental), Prairie Drop Seed Native Bunchgrass (Ornamental)

One Gallon Pot: $8.00 / Two Gallon Pot: $12.00 / Five Gallon Pot $22.50

Special Orders for Spring 2022:

Special Orders can be made now through March. For bare root stock or established young plants, a deposit of 50% of the order is required to hold the plants. I deliver plants when I know that they have come out of dormancy healthy and happy.

Asparagus Roots (5 / Bundle), Rhubarb Crown, Grape Vines, Gooseberry, Raspberry, Elderberry (two varieties are recommended for best pollination; I offer a discount on two or more plants ordered)

Black Currant, Gooseberries & Red Currant

To buy Certificates or reserve your Special Order plants contact me:

Call or text to 307.262.8043

Message from this Website

Message on Facebook

Email:   tarafarmandnursery@gmail.com

Red Osier Dogwood ~ Winter Color

Please enjoy the season, dream your garden, collect recipes and seeds and pictures.

Stay safe and well and I will see you here and in your gardens in Spring 2022 ~ Laurel

Why Natives… when hanging flower pots of petunias are on sale… ugh…

Why Natives? The Wyoming Sunflower
Helianthus maximilani or the Perennial Sunflower will soon be gracing every
open space, every road barrow pit, and my garden. Why my garden?

  1. Nothing is like the warm, golden color of these natives.
  2. Fast Food for the Road: The flowers feed late pollinators, preparing them
    for migration, hibernation or egg-laying. Seeded flower heads feed migrating
    song birds as they head south for winter.
  3. Disguised: The “flower head” is actually hundreds of tiny flowers. Look
    closely.
  4. The Good Bugs: Our native sunflower attracts one very special pollinator:
    the bee fly (I love this name ~ Bombyliidae). You’ve seen them. Fuzzy little
    flies with a long proboscis that looks like a stinger, but is used to take nectar.
    These little insects will fill the centers of the sunflowers, their legs and fuzzy
    bodies packed with golden pollen. And here is the ecological role of these
    peaceful creatures: The Bomby is able to detect small holes in the soil where
    grasshoppers have laid their eggs. The Bomby bee fly hovers over the hole
    and drops its own eggs into that hole. The Bomby larva hatch first and
    consume the grasshopper eggs. I love native team members. The first and
    most important practice in permaculture is observation. Observation is done
    to understand and apply what nature has developed over tens of thousands
    of years. This reduces waste of resources and introduction of toxins or other
    human long-term damage. As practitioners we support, even encourage natural processes. And so every year I collect the native sunflower seeds and
    strategically plant them in the gardens near the fruit shrubs, and I offer them
    water so that they will grow strong.
  5. Yummy: Collect the little sunflower heads when they have gone to seed.
    Remove the sepals, or leaves, from around the flower head. Brush oil – like
    olive flavored with garlic or sesame oil. Bake or grill the entire flower head.
    The flower head will soften and then it can be eaten whole.

My cows are less appreciative of the gifts of the sunflower. They simply put the entire flowerhead in their mouth and pull the crunchiness in, crushing the sweet oily goodness.

Redemption

My heroine & guruette:Alicia Bay Laurel #AliciaBayLaurel . In 1970 she wrote the handwritten, hand-drawn Living On The Earth. In recently re-reading it I became very unhappy with myself. So today I sought redemption. I split Russian olive firewood. I had forgotten the Zen of wood chopping, hurt my shoulder, regrouped and finished in the breath of it. I turned off the furnace and the fire is built and ready. Humble but proud, I then made my first attempt at homemade hummus…it turned out amazing!! Im adding avocado and will try very hard to not eat the entire batch for dinner!!! Next: making flatbread from scratch. Don’t get me wrong; there will always be a grocery list (especially with our growing season!!) This was a really good day. Tomorrow: More wood; buffaloberry jam; plumbing new rain/irrigation barrels… as the next sub-freezing snow event floats in. (My deepest thanks to Don who replaced the old busted ax handle and sharpened the blade.🙏)

Response to the Question: Does planting by the moon really work?

Each plant in each specific location under each specific moment of conditions responds specifically. You can work to create the best set of circumstances to support and encourage the best ecology for that plant even to its best death. Study in-depth or take a seed and stick it in the ground and water it. Then observe, learn, try again. When you figure it out the 8 year cycle of grasshoppers will pop. You will do everything you can and still be overwhelmed. You will wait a year and start over. Thus is nature. Live IN it. Don’t get too cerebral. Stay light on your feet and ready to learn. Or else you will miss the important stuff. Then pick that sweet ripe berry or grape, eat it and smile. The End… and The Beginning.”

The life of plants is not a mystery, but it is completely enmeshing. I believe that all approaches to horticulture should be held up to a very wise bit of advice:”Do not believe in what you have heard; do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations; do not believe anything because it is rumored and spoken of by many; do not believe merely because the written statement of some old sage is produced; do not believe in conjectures; do not believe merely in the authority of your teachers and elders. After observation and analysis, when it agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it”. Who knew Gautama Buddha was a gardener… in other words, take that seed, stick it in the soil, tend to it and see what happens. Oh and don’t wash your hands right away. Moon or no moon.

Tiny Dragon Faces To Feed Us

One beautiful fourteen inch tall chickpea plant, bright fingered leaves of a legume…tiny dragon-faced flowers… she was the only survivor of last year’s chickpea experiment. She gave me six little chickpeas.

This year I have more hope and more experience, and a new plan. Soon the shelves in my greenhouse will be full of one gallon pots, planted with dry garbanzo seeds. They will get a full 100 days of growth. I will move the plants to a bed when they reach 5-6 inches tall and space them about six inches apart so they are close enough to support each other as the pods begin the weigh the leaves down. They will get more bare, poor soil; legumes live to give. Like my Mother Grape Vine – all of us, really – require a struggle to fruit.

The chickpea plants will get watered very little after they reach 4 inches tall. They will have a clear plastic tent and I promise to watch the weather for cold temperatures ~ snow in June; of course. The plants are frost tolerant and in fact they like things under 80 degrees. Four to six successful plants should provide me with lots of hummus ~ protein, fiber, vitamin C and all the benefits for my body of olive oil, cumin, lemon and the favorite bits: marinated artichoke, Kalamata olives, roasted red peppers, smoked trout, homemade basil pesto. Pita bread with just a few flakes of black pepper.

Various Hummus ~ Photo: foodwithfeeling.com

The Basics Into The Amazing: Basic Hummus

Add just a sprinkle of baking soda to the water

Low, long boil for the chickpeas from dried beans only

Beans are ready when the skins are peeling off in the water and they can be mashed with your fingers

Do not over cook

1 ½ cups cooked chickpeas (or one 15 oz can)

¼ cup fresh lemon juice

1 medium clove of garlic

½ tsp salt

½ cup tahini

If you have any question about your homemade tahini, this is the ingredient you want to spend money on.

Ground cumin

Olive oil

Cold water – dribble in to hummus to help make it smooth

Sesame flowers

And the second most important ingredient in Hummus: tahini. The flavor is so important that I may cheat and buy tahini. I will plant sesame seeds. I will harvest the seeds. Needs shift. Back in Grandma Helen’s day a woman would sit on the porch and remove the hulls of peas, beans and seeds. A cuisine meditation. Then women left the home to work. The cost of living climbed. Money bought the services of foreign women to prepare these kinds of things. Machines took the work.

But in “retirement” – which only means I don’t go into an office to work – I can sit in front of the woodstove next fall and remove the damp hulls from the sesame seeds. I will roast them and store them in jars in the dark cool shelves. If I can grow them….it’s all an experiment.

Nature knows. Sesame seed plants also want poor soil, dry conditions, no help. The two plants will be planted together. I will trim leaves from the chickpeas to release nitrogen into the soil for the sesame. The two will bloom almost together.

Basic Tahini:

Tahini can be made with hulled or unhulled seeds

Sesame Seeds

Soak the seeds, pat dry, remove the hulls by hand. Leaving the hulls on can give the end product a bitter taste.

To make the tahini you can hand grind or use a small food processor to create a cream of the seeds.

Drizzle oil into ground seeds. Olive oil is usually used, but try other oils like avocado.

Add salt to taste.

Pumpkin, pickled and frozen beets, pinto beans, chickpeas, sesame, garlic, grapes, chokecherries, currants, buffaloberries, rose hips, elderberries in “perfect timing” years…. It is always an experiment; the weather is never ever predictable. But there is such a full, sweet feeling working with the plants, preparing the fruits and seeds and the warm fragrance in the cabin when the meals are in the oven. I will always have a grocery list, but something more and something different every year makes the moment so much more full of comfort… compensation for the muck, the sore muscles, the scratches and scrapes, the never-quite-clean fingernails, the snowstorms…I’m planting the chickpeas in the next couple weeks, but I’m saving half of the seeds to make my first homemade hummus. Ill post a photo and how that experiment goes.

For now: the cows are still stuck near the shed in pools of MUCK. So it’s time to take them a little hay, some grains and try to move them away. The ducks go into their shelters when I ask them; they are just starting to lay (duck eggs make pumpkin custard so rich). And the snow drifts are just beginning to evaporate. Next week I will also be collecting more willow cuttings for new trees, planting some in the wet drain ditches and selling some to a long-time customer. And I might even get a chance to work on my paintings. Escape garden rules. Plant something to feed the family; plant something new to feed the mind; plant something that feeds your heart….but do it all inside, for now.

Soul of the Garden: Fava Beans and a Nice Chianti

Fava Bean Blooms: Signature “sweet pea” flower of all legumes

“I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti.” One of the most frequently used lines from any movie ever made (The Silence of the Lambs; Sir Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter). Not only in the film arts but in the history of human cuisine, the fava bean has been and still is a staple for so much of the world.

Humans appreciated fava beans so much that they brought them home from the wild. Wild Vicia faba or Faba / Fava Beans were growing in the Lower Galilee of what is now Israel at least 14,000 years ago according to radiocarbon dating of plant material found at archeological sites. The first domestication has been found for Neolithic farmers 10,200 years ago. (Source: Caracuta, Science Reports, 2016)

Fava or Faba beans are a legume; when the beans are harvested the plant releases nitrogen from nodules in the roots and that nitrogen feeds surrounding plants. The bean is used to make falafel, similar to chickpeas, also known as garbanzo. An interesting twist in this relationship is that some humans have a genetic defect which causes red blood cell breakdown by a chemical in fava beans. It’s very rare and seems to be mainly in those of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern descent – the population that originally tamed the bean. It is believed to have caused 33,000 deaths in 2015.

Fava Beans

There are many reasons that humans were moved to bring the plants they gathered in the wild close to their dwellings. Those reasons may include: finding safety from predators – animal or other humans; closer to a water source to have more consistent growth and production; religious or cultural rules, such as women going out alone to gather food; and isolation driven by plagues, such as the Black Plague (Bubonic plague; bacterial; spread by fleas). Closer their shelters, the humans assisted those plants by cultivation. Observation and accident led to crop rotation, dried food, seed collection and intentional planting, and seasonal recognition ~ when to plant, when they flourish, harvest.

Chickpea / Garbanzo

I ran a test with Chickpeas last year, hoping to be able to make homemade hummus and falafel over winter. I found that they honestly need 100 days and hot dry weather. So this year I will be starting them inside, then to greenhouse until our temperatures get up into the 70 degrees F.

And a medical note: If you are on MAO inhibitors DO NOT eat liver, fava beans or wine. They cancel out the medications. This was an inside “joke” in The Silence of the Lambs: Dr. Lecter’s psychotic episodes could have been exacerbated by his diet.

No Denial:

~ Photo Source: Spanish National Research Council

No Denial:

Please do not think that I am not aware of the threats that are so close to home right now ~ COVID, loss of loved ones, loss of employment, loss of a sense of your reality in our democracy, general loss of trust and belief. As painful as this all is, please know that it is also a very rich time that will broaden hearts and minds, and will, alas, strengthen fears and prejudices and ignorance. But there is only so much you can do. The Earth Abides. Take refuge in knowledge, in personal action, in the earth, in natural processes beyond human behavior ~ except your own. I hope that the following series of posts will extend your feeling of time and fill the cold, dark hours with ideas and creation and a sense of the long view, to take back some of your sense of your own resilience. The Soul of the Garden posts look at the landscape, horticulture, gardening, the place of humans as part of the landscape… or the back yard. It is a Social Science perspective, informed by Earth and Botanical Sciences… interdisciplinary, interdependent. I hope these will not only distract you, but will lead you to a new sense of reality which is in your hands… you and the weather and the earth and the bugs, and bartering with your neighbors, and the crimson branches of the dogwood, and watercolors, acrylic paints, color pencils, and the snap and taste of fresh asparagus, and a grounded divinity that doesn’t blow smoke in your eyes or up your overalls, but ties your soul to its source. Here we go.

Alma del invernadero

Clear a corner. The greenhouse is a refuge, a temple, a secret garden, a retreat, an atelier, a salon, a wine tasting room, a place to watch rain drops run down the poly or glass, a snake and spider bug hunt, a place to bury your hands in potting soil, a biome of life… through the looking glass. Wine spritz, spiced cannabis tea, iced Turkish coffee… you’ve created another world. How will you populate it…

Food Forest Floor: Groundcovers ~ Nitrogen Fixers & ‘Weeds’

Food Forest Floor: Groundcovers ~ Nitrogen Fixers & ‘Weeds’.  What goes on the ground under a ‘food forest’? The truth is that the lowest tier of plants should be providing shade just inches above the surface. But when you are just starting a food forest the ground can be fairly bare. Here are some groundcover suggestions that will improve or preserve that top soil until the lush installation takes over. As for planting instructions: for the perennial, nitrogen fixing plants, scratch the surface of the soil with a rake and hand cast the perennial seed. Water to set into the marred ground. Water very lightly every day unless it rains. You could see sprouts within the first week. Watering will increase growth, but you can reduce to “when the ground is dry” once the plant is growing. For the annual ‘weeds’: find them in your favorite deserted lot. Look for pig weed, purslane, knotweed, low mallow. Collect in fall when seed sets in paper bags and spread on ground after winter snow is off. Keep the area mowed using chickens, ducks, geese, turkeys, string trimmer or hand mower. Hand pull from immediately around the shrub and tree bases. Leave some groundcover flowers for all-season pollinators. #thegardenisnotclosed