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Growing plants for food and beauty

Oh Poop!

Mule Poop

It takes a little planning and a few barnyard animals, but finding free fertilizer can be easy and cheap. A friend of mine who lives outside of town has mules ... and their byproducts. Mules are great animals, if you have the room for them, and they produce a considerable amount of fertilizer. Local stables can be a good source of livestock manure if you can haul it away and compost the stuff.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving Meal

It is Thanksgiving evening and the kitchen is tidied, the leftovers put away, and only a few dishes to face tomorrow. Now that's a good holiday.

What made it a better holiday was a lovely home-cooked meal as one of our blessings. Here's what we are thankful for: loving family, good work, a warm, cozy house, and good things coming our way. But possibly just as important, here's what we had for dinner:

- Cacahuates y Pepitas Enchilados - because it's fun to say and a delicious snack.

Why I Garden #18

French Tarragon, drying

We had the first hard freeze of the season last week. There were no light frosts, the low temps went solidly below zero (Celsius) in one night. The local meteorologist gave us ample warning so we pulled up tomato plants, harvested squash and chile and tender herbs. It was an exciting end to a full year of watering, weeding and tending. Tomatoes and tomatillos are slowly ripening, herbs are hanging to dry in the kitchen and apples are being sauced or fermented.

Putting Water in its Place

Mulched Basin for Rain and Grey Water Drain

Water in the Southwest may be worth more than gold. Even growing the hardiest of native plants requires considering how they will be watered. In our backyard I've used rain barrels for two years to water the vegetable garden. But until now my front yard was dependent on direct rainfall and the garden hose. I've finally added a branched drain system that directs rainfall from the gutters to mulch-filled basins that water our trees and perennials. Hopefully, I can water the front landscape without moving a hose again!

Why I Garden #17

New Mexico Hops

I planted New Mexico Hops (Humulus lupulus L. var. neomexicanus) in the backyard several years ago and they have flowered prolifically this year. Each year these perennial vines spread further and are close to covering the fence they grow over. Hop flowers aren't likely to win a beauty contest but they are wonderfully fragrant in a way that few IPA lovers can resist. Now it's time to visit the local home brewing store and find a beer recipe to go with wild hops!

More Info:

Why I Garden #16

Squash Blossoms and Honey Bee after the rain

The monsoon rains have been coming pretty regularly and everything in the garden is growing with vim and vigor. I expect that the various squash and other vining plants will soon break out of their beds and overwhelm any slow moving bystanders. Of course that includes the weeds, but the fruit and veggies are keeping pace. My only worry is that I might miss pulling any of the insidious Siberian Elm (aka Chinese Elm) seedlings that are sprouting from any and everywhere.

Game On

Apricot Jam, Butter and in Marsala

I would have written sooner but I’ve been canning. The apricots are here and it’s game on.

Due to an amazing turn of weather this spring, fruit trees all over town actually escaped a late frost and managed to set fruit. It has been several years since this miracle happened last and right now I see piles of apricots lying in the street all over the place. It practically makes me want to weep. Pick your fruit, people! Someone, somewhere will appreciate it not only because it is delicious but also because you can avoid attracting vermin to your neighborhood in search of rotting sweets.

Stewart Brand's Little Green Book

Stewart Brand

Stewart Brand, editor of The Whole Earth Catalog, author of How Buildings Learn and founder of The Long Now Foundation has written Whole Earth Discipline: An EcoPragmatist Manifesto. I'm generally leery of manifestoes, but given Mr. Brand's resumé I decided to chance reading it. I'm still considering Whole Earth Discipline (and have incurred the wrath of my local library by keeping it overdue). Brand makes three statements in his book - Cities are Green, Genetic Engineering is Green, and Nukes are Green. Is he radical, practical or both?


All that drippy sounding stuff I said in April about spring being here? Forget I ever mentioned it. It proceeded to snow again amidst the usual punishing wind of a New Mexico spring. The only good side to that is that I can make soup without feeling like I’m clinging to the wonders of winter cooking. I really can move forward when situations change, really I can. But soup is so wonderful, what can I say.

Why I Garden #15

Wild Plum in bloom with snow

I love gardening, but to paraphrase the old saying - it's not all a bed of roses. Case in point, the apple, almond and plum trees are in bloom and the apricot trees are just past bloom. The problem: the weather last night - snow and a low of 29.5°F and the forecast for tonight is below freezing again.

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