Monday, April 28, 2014

Our Tiny Farm

Our Tiny Farm 

We just put up a really basic greenhouse in our side yard. It came with a PVC covering, which we refuse to use because we are planning to plant edibles inside. So we spent way more time than we expected enclosing it with screening. It will permit the plants, when we get around to planting them, to have sun and rain and they can be easily watered when necessary. This is all being done to keep out the squirrels and rabbits who have plenty of greens to eat elsewhere in the backyard.

We will be planting tomatoes again. Last year I wrapped each tomato individually with mesh so we actually had some to eat. This should be easier. I’m thinking of peas and carrots and lettuce, maybe spinach, too. It’s all organic – the soil, seeds, plants, and feed. I don’t say it’s cheaper than buying it in the market but picking your own food is extremely satisfying and the just-picked taste is incredible. I won’t be putting any farmers out of business with the small scale of this garden but I do enjoy the idea of growing, at least some, of my own produce.

New Jersey is known as the Garden State. We used to have the most acres of productive land with two-thirds of the state being farmland. Now, we are the most densely populated state in the U.S. but the name remains.

But we should never forget that farms mean food. Industrial agriculture and biofuels work against that focus. Fortunately, there is a movement toward creating farmland trusts. My town is 90% built up but the township bought the last farm to keep the heritage alive. We lost a lot of farmland during the housing boom. Now we have a Green Acres program that helps to keep land undeveloped and agreements to keep farmland as working farms when sold. And there is a new understanding of what pesticides can do, to our food, our water, and our land. Small organic family farms are becoming more popular, as is the emphasis on local crops.

I don’t claim that my tiny patch of peas will make a difference in the larger farming picture but it does help me to appreciate those who are trying to keep our lands pure and our food healthy. And I will be sure that the wild strawberries, clover, and grass that the squirrels and rabbits eat are safe and healthy, too.

Here’s a history of New Jersey’s farm development:

Some states are having problems:

Monday, April 21, 2014

Garden as a Concept

Garden as a Concept

I went to a most unusual garden last week. Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens is not about botanical nature but more the nature of the spirit. It was created by mosaic mural artist Isaiah Zagar, in a couple of vacant lots on South Street adjacent to his studio. It is an incredible exhibit. Every space within the building is covered – floor, walls, and ceilings –  and so are the outside walls, stairs, arches, and pathways of the lots. Tiles, some of which are handmade, wheels, pottery, bottles, small ceramic statues, pieces of glass, and mirrors are integrated into patterns that draw a visitor along in a state of awe. One of the guides told me that the mirrors draw you in and make you part of the exhibit as you see yourself reflected in the art. 

But that is the nature of all gardens, I think, no matter the content. We are reflected in our creation of the space. Zagar didn’t use flowers but the garden is alive with color. He didn’t plant trees, yet his garden soars upward. It is a growing space for his art and inspiration.

Every garden has its own energy, embedded by those who create it. The plantings and the design reflect thought and character. They are a presence for ideas to develop and grow.

Sometimes the garden needs to be re-thought, re-planted, and re-imagined as we rethink, re-cultivate, and re-imagine ourselves. A garden takes planning. So does life. What works at one time may not at another. Things change as the garden matures. So do we. At each stage there are options to try and ways to beautify our garden.

This is the right time of year to plan a garden. Whether in a plot or a pot, through art or earth, let’s find what best reflects us – and then share it with the world.

This will help you plan your garden:

If you happen to be in Philly, be sure to stop by:

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

A Golden Time of Year

A Golden Time of Year

The crocuses that greet us as we open our front door are soft yellow. The daffodils in the backyard and on the side of our house are deeper yellow. The goldfinches that find our feeders are brilliant yellow! More gold than not, they are aptly named. It is hard to sulk about the weather when there is so much to awaken to us of the vibrance of Spring.

The supermarkets in our area have pansies for sale – yellow (of course) and purple and pink flowers just invite me to think about gardening. The coreopsis and yarrow will be out soon and, not doubt, so will the dandelions. The sun, which plays hide-and-seek at this season, varies in color from a whitish-yellow to an intense gold.

Yellow is a heartening color. It is the color that resonates in our solar plexus. It energizes and inspires us, stimulates us for learning and ups our intelligence. It brightens the artist’s palette and adds light to the ordinary.

So amid the sporadic raindrops, despite the temperature shifts from cold to warm to cool to hot, even with the uncertainty about the future climate, this time of year is golden. It is filled with promise and hope. And goldfinches to remind us to appreciate nature.

If you like yellow flowers, you’ll love these:

Colors have meaning: