Friday, August 17, 2007

Seed and Stone

On 8/11/07, Fred Owens wrote:

Every thing on Earth, everything you see, is made from seed and stone, and the combination thereof, which produces soil, flowers, grass and trees. Seed and stone are not opposites, and not the same either.

THE IMPORTANCE OF GREENS. We can thank our African friends and neighbors and, by diffusion, people of Southern stock, for bringing greens to our table, but they are somewhat under-utilized and poorly understood. I mean collards and kale and beet greens and so on. They yield in abundance and stay fresh, ready to pick, until the very coldest weather. Greens are for nourishment and fill you up nicely. Cook them thoroughly and don't worry about the loss of Vitamin C which you can get elsewhere. You eat greens for the iron and calcium.

SHOP CHEAP AT THE CO-OP. The Co-op is an expensive store if you buy prepared and packaged food. The way to shop cheap is to proceed directly to bulk foods and just buy the ingredients, then go to the produce section and fill up your cart. Stay away from those other aisles because, if you want to just pop it in the microwave, you will pay an arm and a leg.

PLANT DISEASE. Plant disease is a subject worthy of lifelong study, but it can be summed up in one simple sentence. "All plants die, sooner or later, from one thing or another."

Through research and experience, you might discover why your plant died, but it will still be dead.

HUSBAND PROBLEMS. Many women have faced this situation: "Honey, I just went to Lowe's and bought a chain saw. Now I can help you prune the lilacs."

He means wells. He wants to help, and it is never good to make a man feel small with criticism. Nevertheless you must impose your body between him and the lilacs. Stall, if necessary, and then re-direct his energy. "You know, I was just hoping that you could build me a trellis for these roses near the garage." He will be glad to hear that, because then he can go back to Lowe's and buy more power equipment. After he builds the trellis, tell him you need a wrought iron gate, and then he can go buy welding tools.

Eventually he will find other things to do

LOSING TROWELS. If you buy a $20 trowel by mail order from Smith & Hawken, you will lose it in a week. But if you buy a $5 trowel at Wal-Mart, it will last all summer.

The length of time it takes to lose your trowel varies inversely with its cost.

PRUNING BOOKS. Most libraries carry a good selection of garden books. They are good for dreaming and learning. The Sunset magazine "Western Garden Book" is a solid reference tool. I also recently read a book about Claude Monet's wonderful garden in France.

However, there is a caution about studying pruning books. They tend to make you feel stupid, like you've been doing it wrong all these years. When I teach people how to prune, I concentrate on building their confidence rather than pointing out their mistakes. You will develop an eye for it over time.

PEONIES LAST ALMOST FOREVER. My parents bought a house in Illinois in 1946, the year I was born. My mother planted peonies by the back fence, where they could get full sunlight.

It was my job in the fall to cover up the peonies with dead leaves to protect them in the cold Midwestern winter. The idea was to let them freeze. The blanket of leaves would keep them frozen until spring and then the peonies would come up again in the spring.

The peonies bloomed every year for 50 years. My mother died and we sold the house in 1996, but the peonies might still be there.

FARMLAND PRESERVATION. It is all well and good that organizations such as Skagitonians to Preserve Farmland build public awareness about encroachment of development on agricultural land, but it really comes down to farm income. If the farmer makes money, he will keep farming. If the farmer cannot make money, he will quit farming and find some other occupation.

Therefore, all agricultural support groups need to work towards increasing farm income if they are to be effective.

A farmer might be a popular fellow and still go broke.

ARE COWS DUMB? I observed the 5 p.m. milking at Messman's Dairy last week. They milk 80 cows in a milking parlor that holds 16 cows, eight on each side. While one side is being milked by the machine, they get the other side ready.

The cows are in a holding pen while they wait their turn. The milker was proud of the ease in which the cows were led to the milking stations -- no yelling or hitting. The cows were very gentle and that comes from good and kind treatment.

One cow went the wrong way. She walked up the wrong plank and came to a chain and couldn't go any further. Meanwhile the other cows had gone up the right way into the milking station.

So this wrong-way cow had a problem and needed to think it out: "Wrong way, Can't Go, What do I do?"

She was a big, bony girl who gives gallons of milk every day, a valuable animal, and yet she was not working with a lot of mental power. She just stood there for a while, bumping up against the chain, gathering her thoughts, sorting out her options.

Finally, it came to her: "Turn around and go back."

Which she did, and then she found the other gate that was open and joined her cow friends at the milking station.

This was not a dumb cow. She knew her limitations, but utilized the resources she had, and solved the problem.

AFFAIRS OF THE HEART. This is a message for a friend: "Take a chance, baby. You die of love or you die of loneliness."

DECLUTTER THE GARAGE. A farmer friend told me he wished the world was flat. "If the world was flat, we could push all that stuff off the edge."

Otherwise, you need to throw it away. I offer a garage/barn/attic/basement organizing service. I am not kidding. I can arrange things so that you can actually get to them, but do not call me unless you are serious, because we will throw things away as part of the cleaning up. Generally, if you haven't used the ping pong table in a couple of years, you need to haul it out to the front yard with a sign that says "Take, Free." It will soon be gone.

PLAN NO PLAN. I advocate a method of garden design called "Plan No Plan." If you hire a designer and spend a few dollars and you like the plan and it comes out all right, that's good. But it will still look like you had it done. The very best design work looks like it was always there -- that's what I do.

LANDSCAPE DESIGN & GARDEN WORK: I have interesting projects going in the Skagit Valley and also in Seattle. Call me at 360-739-0214 if you want something done.

Friday, August 10, 2007

August in the Skagit

Just today I thought I might start writing my blog again -- that might be a good thing.
My newsletter is all about gardening and farming now. I have abandoned politics as a topic -- just can't do that anymore.

But I still have some personal things to say, so I might start putting them on the blog.