Sunday, March 29, 2009

Great's sprouting!

I never thought I'd see the day, but sure enough, very close (as in, nose-in-the-dirt) investigation of the seed flats today revealed that I am indeed growing True Unicorn, an extremely endangered native medicinal. Don't worry--it'll only be 6 or 7 YEARS before the root can be harvested. For now, let's just try to get it to its first set of leaves, shall we?

In other news, I am most excited about my "herb forest" that I've begun adding to the rear of our property. Finally, I am building the medicinal/culinary herb garden of my dreams--a tangle of folklore and magic I can lose myself inside of daily. It will obviously be a year or so before it becomes a true jungle, but I'm helping it on its way by adding mature perennial herbs from last year's garden (dug up with permission from the tenants of our old rental house). My sugar snap peas are also coming along nicely, latching bravely onto their homemade trellis and climbing ever upward. I so look forward to gorging myself on snap peas right from the vine. When we had them in Oregon, they never even made it into the house!

Finally, Jacob dug up the "verge"--the green space between our sidewalk and the street--and I layered it with mulch, then scattered three or four packets of wildflower seeds. With luck, the city officials won't cite us for failure to mow. :/

I'm going to creep back down to the basement now and make sure my true unicorn sprouts weren't just figments of my over-coffee'd imagination.

Here's to spring!


Friday, March 13, 2009

R-r-r-really, people? Really, America? REALLY!?!?

I wasn't sure at all that we could get any more obsessed with outward apparance/any stupider/any more over-medicated, but, alas, we just did.

What was that I was reading tonight? Oh, yes, about how St. John's Wort, Comfrey, and Coltsfoot have been deemed dangerous by the FDA and are better left as pretty ornamentals in the garden.

Yes. I'm off to see if any of my EXCEEDINGLY DANGEROUS PLANTS have sprouted while ya'll go plump up your eyelashes with some glaucoma medication.



P.S.--I am well, well, well aware of the fact that there are many extremely dangerous herbs out there. They are, after all, drugs in their own right. HOWEVER, I'm sure many of you can appreciate that the FDA seems a little cracked when they tell us that comfrey will kill us, but that it's okay to take a medication for a SERIOUS CONDITION simply because we want longer eyelashes.

I over-explain.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Garden p0rn!

This is my black mandrake plant that I've been growing (with a period of dormancy...oops) for about a year. He suffered a small injury (see brown spot) when a cat gave him a nip, but other than that, he's doing swimmingly, putting on new growth rather quickly and otherwise taunting me with the idea that we could be seeing a flower or two soon. For those of you not in the know, mandrakes can be rather persnickety, taking up to a year to germinate (if they germinate at all). Mine germinated in a couple of weeks, but it's been slow, slow going. Worth it, though. I pet him fondly everyday.

"Copenhagen Market" cabbage seedling.

Russian Comfrey re-emerging after a long winter's nap.

Happy little Lady's Mantle greeting the burgeoning growing season.

Wild lettuce germinating under the shop lights, with its neighbor, clary sage, popping up to say "hello," as well.

Teeny little pennyroyal sprouts--the seeds were nearly invisible!

Tomorrow, I'll try to get some pics of my super-frugal germination station (which, apparently, is doing its job very well!).

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Food, Medicine, Magic

In all honesty, this could be the title of most of my posts for this blog, but I decided to make it today's title for the mere fact that the first of the food and the first of the medicine have begun to sprout down in my fantastic basement germination station. My Copenhagen market cabbage and my wild lettuce have poked their little green heads out from the soil and are saying hello to the bright new world beyond.


Seriously, though. It never, ever, ever gets old--seeing those first sprouts of the season. I don't think it ever WILL get old. At the goat farm, I spent countless evenings elbow-deep in birthing goats, and that final push--that gush of new, warm, bleating life into the world--never, ever got old. It brought me to tears (just a little) each time, and made me feel at once very sexual, very spiritual, and very much a part of the magic and the order of things.

While sprouting seeds are not baby goats, there's definitely something there that gets my blood thrumming and today, as ever, I did a little dance and bounded up the basement stairs to try to find someone--anyone--to tell of this marvelous coming.

And I act as though I've been sprouting seeds all my life, but I haven't. 3 years. It's only been 3 years since I first plopped some soil in a pot, took those miniscule artemisia absinthium specks in my fingers, and sprinkled them over the dirt with a mixture of dubious curiosity and reverent certainty. Why did I start with wormwood, of all things? Because when I moved into the semi-communal disas--err---experiment that was Possum Place in Eugene, Oregon, the one thing I wanted to do more than anything in the world was the exact same thing I'd been wanting to do since that odd day, around the age of 12, when I became OBSESSED with herbal folklore and magic---grow as many varieties of herbs as I possibly could. So, they handed me a battered shoebox of herb seeds and told me to have at it. They then proceeded to question everything I chose to grow, chiding me for planting things with "no real use."

Despite their doubts and my initial disbelief that something so tiny could actually BECOME something, my wormwood plants flourished into maginficent, silvery, plumed things that the local garden expert fawned over (in his extremely handsome/seductive British accent). He even took one home for HIS GARDEN. This was the man that could grow ANYTHING...and he took MY wormwood plant!

Where is this going? I'm not sure. I think it's become a reminiscent ramble.

The point is, for me, food, medicine, and magic go hand in hand in hand. I'm not really talking about cauldron magic--though there's certainly a bit of that what goes into the medicine-making part. I'm certainly not talking about wand-waving magic, though sometimes I fancy a nice wand to make things grow a little faster. I'm talking about the magic that happens through the entire process of raising a plant from seed to seed--from tiny sprout to a tincture that will help a friend get rid of her headache; from a two-leafed seedling into a plate full of candy-sweet tomatoes I'll slice and eat with sea salt and pepper; from a gangling vine to a pumpkin that, each night, reminds me of a harvest moon fallen from the heavens to nestle amongst the weeds. When I'm planting seeds, when I'm kneeling in the dirt, when I'm macerating, canning, straining, bottling, stirring, sniffing, tasting, experimenting, dancing through the tomato vines looking for fairies, I get an almost indescribable feeling that a). all is right with the world b). I am very old c). I am more things than I ever thought I could be and d). I am the luckiest person the world. I often find myself talking to my plants, and I suppose they must be talking back, because I can go on for hours. And already this season, there has been so much magic....for the first time ever, I've coaxed some aconite seeds into sprouting. One day there was nothing. The next? Aconite babies! I sowed them in November and that first warm day, they began to emerge en masse. I've also had tremendous luck with my shooting starts, so far, and I'll patiently wait the three years (!) it could take for them to bloom.

This weekend, we're borrowing a truck and getting compost (from the city facility) and soil, and we're filling the first of our raised beds. Soon, it'll be time to sow the carrots & the beets, and to set out those little cabbages who appeared today. It's happening. It's really, really happening. I finally have a garden to call my own--a garden to grow with.

I joined a website called "Freedom Gardeners" (a modern day twist on "Victory Garden"). It's essentially the Facebook of gardening, so, like a tool, I created a profile and waited pathetically for someone to friend me. It didn't take long--not to get a friend request, but to get a question regarding my profile. Here's what my profile said:

I believe in the omens of Indian pipes and pale green moths.

I want to be a folk song. Or a daguerreotype. Or a daguerreotype of a folk song.

I think plastic packaging should be outlawed and that everyone should put everything in blue Mason jars, like the good lawd intended.

I believe heirloom tomatoes will save us all.

I believe in catfish the size of Volkswagens.

I believe in pie magic.

I believe it's time to dig our toes in, grow food, make medicine, and take charge of our own happiness and simple prosperity.

So this guy in a cowboy hat sends me a message entitled "?" which I knew couldn't be a good sign. It says, "What's pie magic?"

I half expected him to follow that with "Sounds like Orc mischief to me," but he didn't. I fumbled for an answer, which said something to the effect of everything you've just read (above).

"Hmmmm....I've never been much of a mystic. I'm more of a practic," he replied.

And then he friended me.

So far, he's my only friend on

If you have a garden, join (and be my friend!). The forums are actually a really fantastic source of information, and there's a fairly hilarious/sad/useful thread right now on "Happy Homesteaders vs. Doom-and-Gloomers" where they're keeping tally on how many people are happy and how many people think the world's going to change drastically. What if you think the world's going to change AND you're happy? Well, there's a place for you, as well.

Coming soon--pictures! I have much to show you all. For now, it's time to find an Ent to put me to bed (and if that doesn't work, I'll have to take myself there).