Not Only In The Garden

Winter is dipping into my garden again tonight. I bundled up and put Bridget the Highlander in the loafing shed with some grain, MSM for her arthritis and some hay. I let the Angus girls in for water and over-night shelter. I told the ducks and geese that it was time to go into their houses, which they do with very little other direction. The weather station screen in my mudroom shows 25 degrees. The woodstove is hot and I’ve put the extra blankets on my bed. All of which tells me that it’s the season for planning next year’s projects, dreaming next year’s landscape. This year I will be doing this comfortably by the fire along with sips of homemade rhubarb liqueur.

Also color pencils.  Mine are kept in pieces of Styrofoam so that I can see the colors. And no matter where, no matter when, I am never without a notebook, a sketchbook and the camera and SMemo app on my phone to capture and record ideas, inspirations, questions, colors, textures. So the first step is to prioritize things that need to be done and things that I would like to see done. Then I pull out all those scraps, notes, photos, color palettes.

**Review of 2019 Projects: Livestock Loafing Shed. Goal: Repair, restoration, cleaning and organization. Methods: (All contractors in Casper WY) Cleaned and sanded exterior and painted metal siding (special paint from Diamond Vogel); pens cleaned, corral cleaned and grading for drainage (Glenn Ross Excavation); repaired and restored broken metal fences around corral (Double D Welding); repaired / re-stretched wire and re-secured cattle panel fences; installed wood posts and three metal gates (gates purchased at Tractor Supply); and repair of frost free hydrant (again Glenn Ross Excavating). I also completely cleaned out the storage area – disturbing at least one 6 foot bull snake –  organized surplus materials from scattered storage, and stored small hay bales (from my East Field by JW, my Neighbor)for times when the cows are confined. The painting of the metal fence around the corral will have to wait until 2020.

The cows are still figuring out where all the new gates lead…typical.

For You: Be patient with yourself, with your list. But the most important step toward getting a project done is to take the first action. Study garden catalogs; sand the wood; collect the materials; find what you love, what comforts you, what makes all the work worthwhile.

Permaculture Strategies: Recycle,Reuse & Restore and Technology Transfer

Rural folks know that everything will eventually have a use. Parts and pieces pile up in sheds, barns, fields ~ frustrating the more organized members of each family. In this very short presentation the permaculture strategies of Recycle,Reuse, Restore and Technology Transfer might just clean some of that up and put it to good use. Vertical gardens are all the urban rage. This little project just might serve several strategies: diversification of income (sale of broken pipe), recycle/reuse/restore, technology transfer, wise use of resources, obtain yields in the form of food and soil conservation and restoration. Even the worms win…

Permaculture Strategies: Restore, Conserve Resources & Observe Processes ~ Home Vineyard Cover Crop

Wedge shaped tap roots, rhizobium bacteria in alkaline clay soil, rotational grazing by African Geese, restoring the compacted space of The Refuge’s small experimental vineyard. This short video describes the use of appropriate – custom blended – cover crop. There is genius hiding in the warehouse of the local feed and seed store; just have to drag those kids out into the sun and give them a challenge. Application of several permaculture strategies in Central Wyoming USA ~ the artifact geology of the Western Inland Seaway 100 million years ago…

Classes, Courses & Chautauquas

               Science and pseudo-science (#horticulture, #agriculture, soils, #geomorphology, #permaculture ) is a subject I love to rant about, but let’s bring it down to the practical applications. All science begins with observation; all observation is colored by physical ability, physical setting, layer upon layer of variables, perception, interpretation and above all else the pending question. Hypothesis not null hypothesis, trust me. Spring 2019 will bring practical application of observations into the classroom. Bring a Beginner’s Mind … as best you can…

OLLI Program at Casper College:
Saturday April 6, 2019 9am – 4pm Dirt to Earth: Permaculture Soil Improvement
Saturday April 27, 2019 9am – 4pm Oh, The Water: Permaculture Garden Water Management
Saturday May 4, 2019 9am – 4pm A Rose Is Not Always A Rose: Permaculture Garden Plants
For more information on the OLLI Program and/ or on these classes please contact Vicki Pollock 307.268.2097

And By Special Request: Permaculture Landscape / Garden Design will be offered at the Fort Caspar Museum Classroom this Spring (date to be determined). This one-day class will cover organization of observations, resources, plants and your goals for your landscape or garden. I have had many requests for this course outside of the OLLI program offerings. I am negotiating a date and sponsor for this class. Minimum number of students is eight. An additional meeting of the class at The Refuge will be scheduled. Tuition: $50.00 To reserve a space please send text, email or leave voicemail. 307.262.8043 / tarafarmandnursery@gmail.com

More than half the time we do not realize everything we have seen. Filters are mind over matter. Recall and increase the success of your earthwork. Dig in.

Transition: Leaving the Ball and Chain for the Tight Rope

     Finally. The open door. The one that never shows what is on the other side. Smoke or mist or darkness. Shortly after 1 January 2019 my entire focus will go to the design and nursery practice, a risk that is exciting and anxious…a strange balance. The sense of freedom that comes and goes is also a sense of the unknown. A blank canvas, paint box closed. This site will become a place for in-depth postings; the Facebook page will become brief notes, notices, special offers and photos. With this move I will have time to spend with former and new clients, students, research and design, and my own restoration. For now, hibernation, reading, planning and resting up for the new challenge…soon, very, very soon. Standby for irreverence, chautauquas, strange integrations and observations. Buckle your seatbelt (All About Eve, and the Garden of Eden revisited.)

Spirit, Science, Craft, Bumblebees

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Last year on one of those very early spring days of cold shade and clear sunlight, the open space near the front steps to the cabin was filled with a low rumble. It was so loud that I checked the approach to the nearby airport for the gigantic FedEx freight plane preparing to land. I scanned the small yard next to the cabin.  The juniper-fragrance of the five-year-old Black Currant bush on the north side of the house filled the warm air. The bush was so full of buzzing bumble bees, disturbing and brushing the leaves, that the oils were released. Beneath the leaves the stems were populated with racemes of retiring bell-shaped flowers, tinged with a light purple promise. Hanging from almost every small flower was a fat, fuzzy bumblebee – beautiful gold-orange-brown-black grizzly bearish pollinators.

 

Tonight, on this freezing, Wyoming, February evening rich burgundy frozen juice is thawing in a bowl on the kitchen counter. Just a little organic cane sugar will bring out the deep black currant flavors – a little juniper, a lot of dark berry, mildly acidic, like citrus. The final liquid is used as a concentrate to make almost a gallon of juice to drink. After the best and fullest ripe currants had been harvested, the rest were left on the branches to dry on the bush. The dried berries are now kept in Mason jars with pale green burlap secured over the top. These, along with dried wild rose hips, are steeped with the Sri Lankan white tea in a vintage porcelain tea pot for seven to ten minutes: the vapor of the garden in the middle of winter.

 

The timing of the bumblebees of last spring was perfect. These were the first large pollinators to appear, climbing out of their hibernation seemingly all of a sudden, in one day, and covering the early flowering currant. That will not be true every year.

 

In the practice of permaculture, we follow the patterns of nature. Nature does not behave in isolated cycles or a single path of progress. Time and space overlap, work with and through each other. When an installation is designed it often includes layers of product: early spring-flowering  fruit , mid-summer richness, early fall wine fruit. Late fall includes harvesting the wild rose hips and grapes. Any fruit left on the shrubs or trees or vines decorates the bare branches through winter, often feeding birds and mice until snow covers it all.

As we seek balance in our practice, we need to seek a balanced view of the elements of our landscape. The majority of the currants grown at The Farm were actually pollinated by small flies: all of the red, pink and champagne currants. Observing is the first and foremost permaculture practice. No bees worked on those shrubs. This year the little flies also worked on the grape vines. Honey bees worked on the crabapples and mason and carpenter bees on the wild roses. Some years the buffaloberry shrubs glow with tiny, iridescent wasps on every hidden, yellow flower.

 

The activity of human beings has disrupted the organized chaos of diversity with monoculture and manicured lawns Some behavior attempts to mitigate the consequences of homo sapiens who are not so wise.

This year, for the first time, a North American bumblebee has been listed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as “Endangered”. The Rusty Patched Bumblebee was very common in 31 Eastern and Midwestern states prior to research done in 2000. That research found the bumblebee in only 13 states and part of Ontario Canada. As usual the research also found that the most likely cause was loss of habitat.

Inhabitat magazine reported that Japanese scientists and engineers have developed a small drone that can be programmed to “grab and deposit pollen” in flowers. (February 2017).  It goes without saying that isolating one behavior of any element in the landscape does not in any way replace the entire impact of that element. The beating of the wings of a pollinator may have an entirely different impact on the landscape than the whirling of the rotors on a drone.

But the role of any one element in the landscape never carries the field.

Research done by Roger Morse and Nicholas Calderone of Cornell University – done with very rigorous treatment – concluded that approximately $15 billion of the estimated $394 billion in agricultural production is  enhanced by bee activity (“Value of Honey Bees As Pollinators”, 2000).  In truth, the majority of human-consumed food product is pollinated by wind or self-pollination, or will develop even without the act of pollination. The largest type of food consumed – grains including but not limited to corn, wheat, rice, rye, barley – are wind pollinated.

Nonetheless we are the landscape. The majority of human behavior in the landscape is “take”. Any time a project can incorporate hand craft, nature craft and science it meets the permaculture Rule of Three. This year take a little time to hit the second hand stores or your stacks of unused clay pots in the shed.  The Craft Project for 2017 is about pollinators, starting with bumblebee nests.

Bumblebee Nesting Sites

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Step One: Timing and Siting

Use the primary method of permaculture – Observation – to identify plants in your landscape where the bumbles appear in the early spring. There are two times that nesting is important. In the spring when the over-wintering queens come out, and in fall when the queens of that year fly out to find protected places to spend the winter. They seek out abandoned rodent holes, or piles of mulch. The clay pot nesting site provides that place. Make sure that you place these out of high-traffic areas as the bees will defend their nesting sites by stinging intruders.

Step Two: Materials.

🐝 Clay pot- second hand and thrift stores are great places to find these.

🐝 Tubing

🐝 Wire or plastic mesh

🐝 Abandoned mouse nests – These can be found in hay stacks, or places where there is scattered or remnant hay or straw. They will be light, small pieces of material including grasses, feathers, string. Do not use material if it is significantly soiled. Handle the material with gloves to avoid exposure to hanta or other virus or bacteria.

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The old Homelite chainsaw case as home to last year’s mice.

 

Step Three: Construction

🐝 Use a drill bit the same size as your tubing so it will fit snuggly.

🐝 Cut or drill holes on one side of the tubing to allow any water that gets into the tube to drain out .

🐝 Fit the tubing tightly into the drilled hole.

🐝 File a groove in the pot bottom edge (when upside down) to let water trapped in the recessed area out.

🐝 Dig a hole that will cover approximately 2/3 of the pot.

🐝 Place one piece of curved mesh in the bottom of the hole to keep the nesting material off of the damp soil.

🐝 Place the nesting material on top of the mesh.

🐝 Place the clay pot, upside down, into the hole, with the tubing extending above ground but close to the surface, to resemble a rodent den entry.

🐝 Pack earth tightly around the pot and tubing.

🐝 The drain hole – formerly on the “bottom” of the pot – is now exposed. Place the second piece of mesh with grass or small leaf pieces under it, over the drain hole. This will allow for some air flow for the nesting area.

🐝 Place a curved piece of broken or cut smaller pot in an arch over the mesh to hold it in place.

🐝 Place plants favored by the bumble bees near the nesting

The ice remains beneath the surface of the earth. But materials are ready to go. There are several excellent videos on YouTube on bumblebee nests. Use this time to look up the various bumble bee types in your region. Very soon cuttings from the Black Currant will be taken, and in less than five years customers and clients will be able to enjoy the dark richness – and the pollinator’s song.

bumblebeenest