Sunday, November 30, 2008

Greenhouse, Garlic, and an Unexpected Easter Egg Hunt

The weather has been great this weekend and so Leah and I made some time to work in the garden. We have just planted up the first greens and radishes in the greenhouse. This is our first year trying to grow throughout the winter. We will see how that goes. I will post some info on our passive solar greenhouse setup later.

I love garlic and so today as we do every year at about this time we planted our garlic. We are growing 2 varieties this year: Chesnook Red and one that I can't remember the name of, but it has only 4 cloves to the bulb and is super big and easy to peel which are two qualities I love in garlic. We should have a bumper crop of garlic next June...about 100 or so bulbs.

For the last few months we have been concerned with one of our new hens. We raised her from a chick-hood and she should have been laying eggs beginning in August or September. For months now we have been wondering if something is wrong with her or if somehow we had a feminine rooster, but today while raking up some straw in the chicken yard I noticed an impromptu nest located on top of one our compost piles with 8 bluish-green eggs in it. Finally some eggs. Now if I can only train her to lay in the real nesting boxes.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Thoughts on Post Frost Garden Mulching

The hard frosts of Fall are here and much of the gardening work revolves around dreams of next years garden. By now in Flagstaff, our gardens are done for the season (Sedona and the Verde Valley still have a bit of time). Our focus is on putting the garden to sleep. In the veggie garden, chop down the remaining produce to ground level. Add a layer of finished compost if you have some. Then top everything with a good layer of organic mulch (leaves, pine needles, straw, etc.) and water it all in. Don't be afraid to add 4 inches or more of mulch and compost. For trees, shrubs, and perennials you can skip the compost and just add the mulch layer.

Compost and mulch are the work horses of an ecological garden. They feed the microbes in the soil which in turn feed the plants. Without these soil microbes we would have no plants so it is important to keep those little critters happy. If we want the healthiest plants around then it only makes sense to ensure that they are well fed. This means not raking up and throwing away fallen leaves. Instead just rake them around existing trees and shrubs or into areas where they can at least compost. Make sure that no organic matter is wasted from your yard. Better yet collect your neighbors leaves if they are throwing them away and use those in your garden too! I have been known to circle my neighborhood this time of year and collect over one hundred bags of leaves to use in my garden. Organic Mulch has many more benefits including moderating winter temperatures and conserving soil moisture. Adding mulch now also allows the organic matter some time to begin to decay into nutrient rich soil humus before next years growing season.

Happy Mulching!

Leaves One Year Later

Books for further reference:

Teaming with Microbes: A Gardener's Guide to the Soil Food Web by Jeff Lowenfels and Wayne Lewis
The Ruth Stout No-Work Garden Book by Ruth Stout
Gaia's Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture by Toby Hemenway (Check out the chapter on soil)

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Fall Food Harvest

The end of the growing season is here and at Quaking Aspen we are working to harvest and process some of the September abundance. While we have only a 3 month growing season many of the plants we will store through the winter until things begin growing next year. Today Leah and I bundled and hung to dry huge quantities of herbs. Some of which are for teas such as Catnip, Lemon Balm, and Agastache and other such as Basil, Oregano, Sage, Chives, Thmye, and Tarragon for cooking. It was also time to harvest potatoes, winter squash, rhubarb, horseradish, cucumbers, sunflowers, and the last of our tomatoes and eggplant.

This year we were too busy to spend much time in the garden at all. I think I put in less than 10 hours planting, watering (and we water by hand), mulching/composting, etc. So while our harvest may not be huge this year, I am always amazed by the what we are able to harvest. It seems like every year the garden begins to produce even more with less work as the perennials begin to fill in. That is part of the beauty of the lazy approach to gardening adopted by permaculture. While we did spend much time establishing our perennial gardens in the early years we now can step back and relax knowing that if we take off for a few weeks or a month in the middle of summer, our gardens will be fine and still produce a harvest of something. With a little extra work we can produce much more.

Perhaps next year Leah and I will have some time to really plant up a bumper veggie garden. And let's also hope for a good fruit year...actually any fruit would be good.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Harvesting the Rain

In all landscapes, especially in the high desert, water is life. At Quaking Aspen we strive to capture and use much of this water. As a result we are able to have lush gardens without the need for extra city water. In fact our 1/4 acre parcel has over 140,000 gallons of water that will land on it in a average year. In this same year we use about 24,000 gallons of water for bathing, washing dishes, doing laundry, and all other household activities. That means more water falls on the ground and our roof than we use in a year. If we are to set up a sustainable culture, it begins with not over pumping groundwater. Like a bank account we should remain within our "water budget," and for good measure we should begin to put more water back into the ground than we take out. Here is a little clip of some of the ways that we at Quaking Aspen seek to celebrate this abundant gift from the sky!

For more information on Rainwater Harvesting check out our buddy, Brad Lancaster's website.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Transitioning Beyond Sustainability


I believe the time has come to share stories of ecological hope and optimism in this era of environmental degradation. Like many people, I have often wondered what I can personally do to lessen the effects of global warming, peak oil, severe drought, etc. I believe that many of us can make great changes and have a sizable impact on the environmental woes. With this blog, I hope to show people how we can make the changes we wish to see in the world. There are many acts that each home and each person can do to to transition into a sustainable culture. As time allows, we at Quaking Aspen will post stories, photos, and videos demonstrating ways that we can begin to take change into our own hands. If you are looking for ecological ways to live your life then keep checking back as we post information on rainwater and greywater harvesting, permaculture, organic gardening, urban poultry, beekeeping, natural building, community involvement, and many other topics that begin to transition our neighborhoods and lives beyond sustainable.

Quaking Aspen is located in the Foxglenn neighborhood of Flagstaff, Arizona.