Warmth in cool colors

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I gotta tell ya, being in Anchorage during the coldest summer on record, still gives me the urge to plant beds and container gardens. These house flowers, and the thermometer gauge says 155 (in the compost). I just built the last bed of the season. I am still not sure whether to let it sit and wait for spring planting of veggies or to go with flowers and perennials. It is the biggest yet and I did it all by myself using up all of the compost piles (3) from early, mid and late this summer, it is all kinda stinky right now but the chix are loving the wonderful worms and bugs that thrive inside. The coolest temp in all the heaps was 90 degrees. I did the lasagne bedding method.

the right to garden

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In many parts of the country edible plants are considered “unsightly” and officials are having them removed, as in Tulsa, OK, or are bullying homeowners, as in this site below.

Our garden just happens to be in the front yard. There are no ordinances against doing so, but we have been repeatedly told to remove our garden from the front yard, told to seed and straw our front yard, threatened with fines, and harassed for the last three months without justification. When we attempted to file charges for harassment at the Ferguson Police Department, we were laughed at and told to leave. It was said by the public relations officer that “this is a civil issue, not criminal”.

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Compost Fascination and Chicken Education

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Okay.  So I am way deep into things breaking down, must be the entropy lover in me.  The heap has been stuck at 155 Degrees for days and I am totally in awe, I saw eggshells that were actually toasted after turning the pile.  They were burned!

Chickens are doing great.  We had to put one in Chicken Time Out overnight.  I opened the coop and she had feathers dangling from her mouth.  We named her Bully, and swiftly put her into solitary confinement.  I think that you are supposed to do it for 2 days, I could only endure  one and a half.  Tree Top, Rainbow Dash, Red Riding Hood, Sadie and Lioness are all doing fabulously well.  Tree Top is fine with being picked up and carried around by Tahlia, my 5 year old.  She has a new chore, letting the chickens out in the morning….

Permaculture Workshops

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Coming up at Red Edge Design’s Williams St. Farmhouse:

Space is limited!  Call 563-1119 to register!

Instant Gardens  May 30th,  7-9pm

Tired of mowing?  Turn your lawn into a garden in just a few hours, using mostly recycled materials. We will use the sheet mulching technique to build a garden together while we discuss how it works.  See beds built with this method in past years and how they are functioning now.  You can build these gardens and plant them the very same day! $25

Soils and Composting  June 6th 7-9pm

Learn how to harness the benefits of millions of micro-organisms to ease your workload in the garden.  This workshop will help you understand the complexity of soil and teach you how to feed your soil so that it can feed you.  A key part of this is making good compost so we will build a compost pile together, unravelling the mystery behind it so you can make a hot pile every time.  And just for a bonus, we will also make some compost tea! $25

Backyard Chickens  June 13th 7-9pm

Chickens can be a lot of work, or they can do a lot of work for you. Learn how to use Permaculture principles to set up a dynamic, low-maintenance relationship with your garden and chickens. We will cover all the basics of keeping chickens, building a low-maintenance coop, and alternatives to pelleted food.  $25

New at Williams Street Farmhouse

Quick and Dirty: A set of sketching events for those drawn to gardens

Using ourselves, the garden, and our unique personal attachments to our gardens as muse and model we will investigate sketching techniques that allow for greater articulation of experience through a visual means.  In other words, shake preconceptions of drawing and come learn to approach and record your growing season in a creative way.  “Free your mind and the rest will follow…”

Contour – Learn to match the hands movements to the movement of the eye.  This allows you to record what you see versus drawing what you think you see.  The natural line, holds mystery, unpredictability, and texture that will push all of your drawings whether or not they are realistic.

Gesture – Its the gesture that counts.  Get into the essence of objects and capture the character and attitude of items in the garden in one movement.  You’ll summarize the “zucchininess” of that prize zucchini in five minutes, three, one, and finally 30 seconds.

Line Quality – Forget three point and two point perspective.  Learn to use line to add depth to your drawings.  That’s right, the line width and weight (darkness) can put people and carrots in place/space.

Putting it all Together: Complexity in Layers – Use the drawings done at Williams Street Farmhouse to add to your personal collection of interesting bits to create layered images that evoke your memories, hopes and experiences of your garden. (And highlight your new sketching skills of course)

Supply list:

Paper- the bigger the better. Newsprint best. Whatever you have great.

Your favorite writing utensils- suggestions: pencils,  pens, markers, charcoal (all sizes, shapes, and hardnesses of mark making utensils welcome)

Something portable to draw on- suggestion: piece of smooth board, a book, cookie sheet

Attitude- relaxed, excited, exploratory, curious, playful, thirsty

 30$ per class, come one come all

Garden and Wine Tours

Learning is more fun with a glass of wine in hand!  Learn about Permaculture techniques and garden tips at the Williams Street Farmhouse.

June 28, July 12, July 19, Aug 2 or Aug 16

7-9pm, $25

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Sheet mulching! Take one

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Last week in gardening class we learned more about sheet mulching, or lasagna gardening. This is a way of creating a garden bed without the need for “walls” or a truck-load of top soil. Basically, you layer your yard waste in such as way that creates a rich soil for your plants. In class, we added a small area to an already existing bed.

Supplies:

  • cardboard
  • “green” waste – aka nitrogen rich, like grass clippings, food waste, or manure
  • “brown” waste – aka carbon rich, like leaves
  • watering hose
  • pitchfork
  • shovel or rake

We first threw down a layer of food waste, about 2 inches thick, then watered it in.

Next, we added overlapping pieces of cardboard, about two or three layers thick. The cardboard keeps weeds or grass from getting through, so you don’t need to cut away the sod underneath.  Give this layer a good long soak with the hose or even leave it for a couple of days.

Then, alternate layers of green and brown, about two of each, watering in between each layer.

You can end with some finished (screening is not necessary) compost and some leaves to cover the top.

Planting can be done right away.

You can sheet mulch any time of the year. The layers will break down over time and combine a little more to give you a really rich soil you can garden in year after year.

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Already created bed – the new area will be added to the end.

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Food waste from the compost pile

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Overlapping layers of cardboard being watered in.

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More food waste being added – you can also add another nitrogen rich source like grass clippings.

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Yard waste – grass clippings and straw from the hen house.

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A layer of brown (carbon) rich leaves being watered in.

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Finished compost

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More leaves being added as mulch.

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Add your starts or seeds.

Chickens

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I’ve been reading about and been fascinated by the idea of backyard chickens for a while now. From Martha Stewart to MaryJane’s farm, to Susan Orlean’s great article in The New Yorker, “…they have undergone an image rehabilitation so astonishing that it should be studied by marketing consultant.”

Our experience in the Earthship made me a little more eager to get some chickens of our own. Last summer, Anchorage revised the ordinance and so now backyard chickens are allowed on smaller pieces of property; our 8,000 square foot yard can legally be home to four chickens.

The ladies of the Phoenix Earthship

Lucky ladies! They get their own Earthship.

Chicks were out of the question for us because our one year-old kitten is a great mouser and I believe those skills would naturally carry over into his dealings with the chicks. I ordered pullets, “teenage” chickens, but in the meantime posted an ISO on Craigslist for hens that are young but already laying. It turned out our new birds were living just over a mile away.

With my ad answered I then had about 2 days to get a coop and run ready for the chickens. I had already decided on trying to find an old playhouse (which I found for $40 through Craigslist) and renovating it. The family with the playhouse were kind enough to drop it off for me and, in the rain and even a little sleet, I screwed on hardware cloth, wood, and some other reinforcements. I’ll post more about the princess coop pictures another time, but here are a few pictures of it in progress.

Roofless coop…

They travel around the yard together. Here, they were scared of the cat so they elevated themselves and stuck together against the danger.

The girls spend most of their time in the compost pile and on the old leaves under the birch and spruce trees in the backyard. There are a lot of bugs to eat and it provides excellent cover in defense against bald eagles.

The chickens are happy, and spend most of their time free-ranging in the backyard. I am exhausted still from the weekend so I’ll try to revise this post in the next couple of days. We’ve gotten three eggs each day and they are delicious.