Sunday, September 6, 2015

Getting a Handle on What We Have

We’ve lived on this land for a little over 4 years. When we arrived it was a vast gravel driveway (the last people had an RV) and not much else. Yes there were the Oaks, but other than that, there was only a couple of ornamental plums (for shade) and a beautiful old pear tree, which, with a little water has produced prolific amounts of well loved fruit!
There were also four very old lanky pines that occasionally throw down a cone or two with a few nuts, many oaks (Blue and Valley),  one manzanita (produces edible berries), and one poplar tree.
But other than that, it was just grass and stickers, a barn and a house.

This was the first year that everything seemed to produce and or grow to considerable maturity.  Yes, it has meant a lot of water usage, but with water it is an abundant landscape. Definitely DIFFERENT than Georgia, but abundant!

Since we moved in, we have planted a TON of things. Here’s a partial list, mostly of trees and shrubs:
3 apple (2 pink lady, 1 gala)

2 pistachio (male and female)

1 pomegranate

2 figs

5 casurinas (nitrogen fixers and coppice* wood)

15 Mimosas -Albizia Julibressans, which is an herbal calmative  and also a nitrogen fixer and coppice tree.

5 different species of acacias (multiples of each) (nitrogen fixers and coppice wood)
5 olives (all different varieties)
1 mandarin orange
(avocado tree died)
(grapefruit died)

1 Persian mulberry

1 Pakistani mulberry

2 almond (2 different varieties)

2 hybrid chestnuts

1 plum

1 gravillia (silk oak) coppice wood

2 apricots (2 dif. varieties)

1 jujube

2 persimmons-2 different varieties

1 nectarine

1 lemon

1 elderberry (S. Nigra)

5 ornamental flowering trees (for shade, bees and hummingbirds) including 2 golden rain trees, 2 chitalpas and 1 harlequin glory bower

1 western hawthorn

1 star magnolia

various shrubs/bushes including:

6 fejoas (edible fruit)

4 budleias

lilac, fosythia, roses, 
tagasaste (nitrogen fixing/forage for goats)

numerous thornless blackberries, 10 blueberries,
  numerous (10-12) grapes (wine and eating) and a gogi berry,

12 artichokes, 

100 asparagus plants,

not to mention annual and perennialized veggies,

culinary herbs including 7 rosemary bushes
4 different oreganos,

and over 40 medicinal herbs, not including the wild ones,

numerous California drylands natives, including about 10 different artemisia species.

Next up: Getting a handle on the herbal and medicinal plants, one by one, mapped and with Latin names. Probably not going to happen until after harvest is over! 

* For those of you that don’t know what coppice wood is, rather than cut down the huge old oaks that take hundreds of years to grow, and produce logs big enough to heat a nice home in Alaska, we can annually cut back fast-growing trees that will produce more sustainable (and smaller diameter) firewood for small fires.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Dryland Garden

Finally everything is gaining some maturity and here the dryland garden is looking quite happy. I have every Artemisia I can find except the one that grows locally in the wild-she won't grow for me!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

The Scythe Must Dance

It's a beautiful thing when an ancient hand tool can keep up with its motorized counterpart, and even do things a mower can't.  At least not my wimpy electric push-mower.  The scythe easily deals with a four-foot tall stand of wild oats which I would have hated to try to mow!  Tall stuff is actually easier to cut than short stuff.....and moreover, it cuts easier still if it's wet or dewy---again the exact opposite of any powered mower! 
Like any hand tool, practice makes perfect, and a significant amount of time is spent sharpening the tool.  I'm still a novice compared to some of the videos one can find.  And it is exercise, but a rhythmic aerobic exercise that is more comparable to dancing than any other physical activity I can compare it to. 

Barley, Wheat & Favas

"John Barleycorn"-first crop of barley-more behind the grape trellis

 It's great to see sustainable grain crops growing on the farm. Wheat is happening and pictured here, barley.
Barley close-up
Learning a bit about English history and culture, barley is a big part of that, and there is a old song from at least the 1500's that, in a bit of a gruesome way, tells the story of the life cycle of barley-making it into a character "John Barleycorn".

My favorite version so far is by Damh the Bard.
And big family trivia bit here-it is the only song I know of that uses the word crabtree (as in the wood of a crab apple tree).

Barley and favas yum!

 John Barleycorn
There were three men came out ofthe West
Their fortunes for to try
And these three men made a solemn vow
John Barleycorn must die.
They ploughed, they sowed,
they harrowed him in
Threw clods upon his head
And these three men made a solemn vow
John Barleycorn was dead.

They let him stand for
a very long time
Till the rains from
heaven did fall
Then little Sir John's
sprung up his head
And so amazed them all
They let him stand till the Midsummer Day
Till he grew both pale and wan
Then little Sir John's grew a great, long beard
And so become a man.


They hired men with
scythes so sharp
To cut him off at the knee.
They bound him and tied him around the waist
Serving him most barb'rously.
They hired men with their sharp pitch-forks
To prick him to the heart
But the drover served him
worse than that
For he's bound him to a cart.

They rolled him around and
around the field
Till they came unto a barn
And these three men made a solemn vow
On poor John Barleycorn
They hired men with crabtree sticks
To strip him skin from bone
But the miller, he served him worse than that,
For he's ground him between two stones.

There's Little Sir John in the nut-brown bowl
And brandy in the glass
But Little Sir John in the nut-brown bowl's
Proved the stronger man at last
For the huntsman he can't hunt the fox
Nor loudly blow his horn
And the tinker, he can't mend Kettle or pot
Without a little Barleycorn.