Ecofeminism, Subsistence Living & Nature Awareness

April 30, 2012

Garden Connections

Filed under: Ecofeminism,Homestead garden,Paula Mariedaughter — Paula Mariedaughter @ 10:29 am

hawthorne flowers

Hawthorn trees are thick with thorns year round and lush with flowers in spring.

hawthorne flowers

Hawthorn trees are thick with thorns year round and lush with flowers in spring.

A garden is a web of life: mineral, animal and plant life.

We gardeners orchestrate much of what appears in the garden. But Mother Nature is the true spinner of the web of life in our gardens. I am drawn to a garden with personality and unexpected quirks. I am drawn to gardens emphasizing the collaboration with Nature. Our gardens have appeared slowly over the last twenty-five years. Nature has presented unexpected treasures like the tree along our front entrance with the large thorns marching up its trunk and spaced down the limbs. The deer would not dare browse this formidable forest citizen. But, a wild grape vine with a five-inch trunk had engulfed the canopy of this unidentified variety of hawthorn almost killing it. Once we cut back the grape and removed some large sweet gum trees that kept the hawthorn in shade, we discovered this lovely spring bloomer. Four years later our sturdy hawthorn has grown taller and greets the sunny days of spring covered in delicate white blossoms as it arches over the walkway. In fall the red/orange berries provide food for the birds preparing for winter. In this case, all we did was remove the other plants stealing the sunshine on the hawthorn–we just got out of the way!

ladyslipper flower

In the orchid family, but Yellow Ladyslipper flowers bloom in our Ozark hardwood forest.

Providing a shady spot for the native yellow ladyslipper orchid was a different challenge. Over a decade ago we discovered a small colony of these showy yellow wildflowers
in the moist woods beyond our house. Each spring we looked forward to viewing their spectacular curved blooms. Then came the spring where the deer mowed the entire colony to the ground causing us to fence that three foot area and hope the plant would recover. It was several years before the ladyslippers recovered and bloomed in their protected enclosure. Five years ago I noticed that a single stem of new growth had grown beyond the fence. I carefully transplanted that shoot because I knew how fragile was the existence of the colony given the deer population. By that time, I knew I could provide a spot for it in my Rusty, Rustic shade garden. You can see the picture of this plant thriving next to a lush maidenhair fern. Ladyslippers are in the orchid family—our Orchid Creek was named by our neighbor Sharman Sturchio in honor of these lovely native orchids. In this case we actively assisted nature by providing a protective enclosure for the ladyslippers.

lady slipper flower

Here the Ladyslipper is thriving next to a lush maidenhair fern.

Years ago I heard an interview with southern writer and avid gardener Bailey White on NPR as she recounted how gardens had been an important asset in binding a community together. In the South, in the days before big box garden centers, gardeners swapped plants and gave starts to each other of plants that thrived in the locale. “Pass-alongs” were a tradition connecting gardeners with a passion for growing as many plants as possible. She explained that if you wanted a start of a particular rose or a lush hydrangea in south Georgia in those days, you made sure you were in good standing with the gardener who grew those plants. Gardens were nurtured by gardeners who shared extra plants. Seeds, seedlings, slips and starts, cuttings and divisions from one gardener enriched the life of anyone receiving these pass-alongs. Often the shared plants came with stories of their origins. Always the plants came with accurate information about preferred growing conditions. And you knew the plant was well adapted to your area!

Seven hundred hostas later I can speak of the value to my garden of a dark green hosta given to me by my long time friend, Martha Payne. Eighteen years ago Martha gave me three hostas belonging to her mother after her mother’s death. Once the lovely white flower stalks mature they drop hundreds of seeds teaching me the meaning of the phrase “prolific self seeder”. Often times that phrase is issued as a warning when one receives a pass-along plant to warn you of the possibilities of many more seedlings. In this case Martha’s hostas from Kansas City, KS have thrived here and given a lush richness to my shade garden and to the shady sections of our back yard. I pot up hundreds of seedlings and pass them to neighbors and friends. If you want some of these hosta seeds, send me a self-addresses, stamped envelope and I will pass hosta seeds along to you.

red gazing ball

Fran's red gazing ball reminds us both of Jeanne's mom.

Our red gazing ball is a new addition to our garden. Jeanne gave it as a gift to her mother a number of years ago. Fran enjoyed seeing it in her yard for many years before her death at 94 last July. Her gazing ball compliments our blooming peonies. We want to update you on our ceiling project–we’re two-thirds finished.It has been slow-going due to Kas’ schedule and our own schedules. It looks good and we look forward to removing the scaffolding from our living space.

The other news is that our kitten, Catfish, and Scout have bonded! Catfish is full of energy and enjoys following Scout to pounce on him whenever possible. They often sleep together like good buddies. Catfish is now eight weeks old. We feel we have been successful in providing a new feline companion for Scout after loosing both Summer and Striper. All four dogs have accepted him and Zora enjoys playing with him at times she chooses.

Catfish and Scout--feline companions

Catfish and Scout--feline companions.

March 21, 2012

Creeks Are Up!

Filed under: Global Warming,Homestead garden,Patriarchy,Paula Mariedaughter — Paula Mariedaughter @ 11:00 am

Orchid creek rises in heavy spring rains and we can get trapped at home or prevented from returning home! The tender creeks are transformed into rushing, raging rivers. Sometimes these rivers move boulders through the country roads we drive on to get home. Until the county graders and dozers restore the road, we are limited to foot travel. Tomorrow night is our monthly quilt guild meeting in Springdale about 43 miles from Cedar Hill. It has rained for three days. Our garden paths are now flowing with water even though we built the garden following the natural contours of our mountain. We know from this sign that it will likely be days before the creeks are passable in a vehicle. And the road may well be washed out where the creek overflowed and ran along the road heading for the White River. It is still raining. So far we have our phone landline. If the line survives the flooding intact, when the county road grader reshapes the road, the phone line is often cut. No other road connects us to the outside world. Living with rough country roads has the advantage of keeping out strangers, sightseers, and would be burglars!


Kas lost her brakes on our steep mountain road and lived to tell the story.

Many times city people romanticize the idea of living in the country. Many times people who live in the country encourage this silly idea. Living in the rural mountains of northwest Arkansas is full of delights and overflowing with challenges. Water is an ongoing issue for us here at Cedar Hill. We haul all our drinking water using five gallon BPA-free plastic containers. For the gardens, we collect water from our metal roof in large galvanized stock tanks. By August, those tanks are low and we may be hauling water to keep the garden alive. As we age, Jeanne and I are considering options to modify this arrangement, but no solution seems easy or perfect.

Maneuvering our roads can be a challenge as you can see in the photo. Kas is our carpenter friend working with us to install our beadboard ceiling. She was hauling a flatbed trailer loaded with supplies for our ceiling project. Home Depot, where we purchased the insulation and beadboard will not deliver to us because their semi-trucks cannot handle the narrow country road! As Kas approached a steep part of our road, her truck lost power and the power brakes. Both truck and trailer started sliding backward and lodged in this postion.
Kas managed to get out safely and walked to the house to
get our help. I was in Fayetteville going to guild. Jeanne and she eventually found our local tow operator who maneuvered his vehicle past hers on this narrow road to carefully move her truck and trailer. He has been doing this work for forty years and is quite skilled–he has been here at least ten times over the last twenty-four years so he knows our place. Jeanne said he reported that his vehicle was about a hand’s width from
her vehicle as he went up on the steep bank to pass to the front. Jeanne was
awed by what she witnessed. As you can see from the picture it was a life-
threatening situation that ended well! No one was hurt and no vehicle or
cargo was damaged.

Jeanne, Kas and I started the ceiling using a five foot tall scaffolding to make it easier, but the scaffolding is almost eight feet long and five feet wide. Across the top are six boards each eleven foot long. Obviously it takes up lots of space. We started on Jeanne’s side. The scaffolding sits like an elephant until we finish the project. We will slowly move it from section to section. We have completed one sixth of the ceiling and now project it could take months of living in turmoil. After our crew boss, Kas, leaves each day we try to carve out some liveable/workable space until the next workday. You can see Jeanne at her desk located under the scaffolding in the first photo. In the second picture I focused on the part of the ceiling we’ve completed.


Jeanne framed by the scaffolding.


View of our new beadboard ceiling.

Keeping our feline and canine companions safe from local predators continues to be difficult. Five years ago, out rat terrier Taylor was snatched while Jeanne was walking with her and the other terrier on the top of Mahaffey’s Knob not far from home. Since then we have imposed a curfew on our two small dogs from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00p.m., unless they’re locked in the main garden with us. Additionally we got two bigger dogs to help patrol the area. We learned that the peak time for predation of pets by wild critters is March and April when the wild animals have their own offspring to hunt for.

Last Tuesday, March 13. we came home from errands in Fayetteville about 4:00 and saw vultures on a small carcass near the parking area for our house. Striper, our big orange tabby cat, was dead. Apparently killed by a coyote the night before. With tears in our eyes, we gathered our shovels and buried him. We marked his grave with large rocks we hauled from nearby. About six weeks ago, Summer our small seal point tabby cat, disappeared after living happily with us for nine years. What comforts me is knowing they both had a good life here enjoying their freedom to be cats in the outdoors. Our remaining cat Scout is now out only in the daytime, but this will be hard to enforce when the days get warmer. We grieve for both cats and their place in our family group. Both got along with all four dogs. Scout misses his sleeping companions, so we’ve located a kitten who will soon become part of our homestead family. Keeping the cats safe without locking them inside all the time will be on ongoing learning experience.

cats again

It took several years for Summer to warm up to Striper.


Summer is on the left as she and Striper lounge together on the wood box.

two cats

Striper and Summer snuggle in the chair I recovered.

Trouble and trauma are only part of the fabric of our lives. We live with our disappointments large and small. Romanticizing other people’s lives does no one any good. Pat Carr writes in Writing Fiction with Pat Carr, “Our world has become increasingly fragile because of separations and misunderstandings, and right now it needs our shared wisdom. We must learn to understand and sympathize before it is too late. Now is the time for our stories to be honest and authentic.” I want my words to be authentic whenever I write here. I do my best to not romanticize. I do not want to only write about “upbeat” subjects because I do not believe it serves our best interest in understanding our own lives or the lives of others.

Living on the land here in the midst of an oak/hickory forest with a reliable roof over my head pleases me every day. I love the quiet and I love the light that streams in our windows with views of the forest around us. Yet, I know there are dangers around us—from brown recluse spiders to timber rattlesnakes. Every environment has its pleasures and dangers. I am comfortable in mine, but realize that comfort can be destroyed in an instant. I like to focus on the words of poet Emily Dickenson written in 1861:
“’Hope’” is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without words
And never stops—at all…”

It is extremely unlikely that I will be able to visit my quilting friends at our quilt guild tomorrow night because we will still be flooded in by the creeks. If not, perhaps I will be able to finish the hand quilting on the doll quilt I’ve made from vintage bowtie blocks. That would be fun!


The vivid yellow of the forsythia brightens my day each spring.

February 4, 2012

Time is a Seamstress, continued!

Filed under: Homestead garden,Needle and Thread,Paula Mariedaughter,Wildlife — Paula Mariedaughter @ 1:58 pm

“Time is a seamstress, specializing in alterations,” observed Faith Baldwin. We here at Cedar Hill have experienced death, loss and new beginnings all woven together. If you have not read my previous post, please do because I wrote about all the events of the first months of 2011. I will continue writing about our October vacation in Colorado near Mt Princeton and the Chalk Cliffs. The last quarter of 2011 brought many challenges.

quilt shop

Paula lounging with the local quilter's scarecrow at Bev's Stitchery.

Bev’s Stitchery, the local quilt shop was thriving. Jeanne took my picture with the decorative quilter posted outside the shop. I found fabric I likes and enjoyed my conversation with Bev–we talked knitting and quilting and visited about her long history as a quilt shop in Buena Vista. Next, Susan, Jeanne and I went exploring the ghost town of St. Elmo high in the mountains and found a happy colony of chipmunks usually fed by the summer tourists. We were feeding them in October and they scrambled and scavenged for the crumbs we offered. Some bold chipmunks scrambled up our hands and arms. Then the local big blue Steller’s Jays appeared on the scene to steal what they could. We watched the spectacle for at least an hour enjoying all the activity generated by our feedings. One of my favorite pictures from our trip, was one I worked really hard to frame. Finally, I caught an image of one of the striking dark jays against the patch of snow.


Dramatic Stellar's jays are well adapted to Colorado's climate.

More of those unique scarecrow figures dotted the small town of Buena Vista, from the local newspaper office to the library and the knitting shop. I see them as examples of public art and humorous adventures into creativity. As you can see these figures added personality to a small community for both the locals and for the visitors like us. I persuaded both Susan and Jeanne to be part of this photo shoot too. Jeane is pictured outside of the newspaper office and Susan is associating with the library’s mascot who holds a stack of–what else–books.

newspaper scarecrow

Jeanne with a crow and a scarecrow.


Susan outside the library in Buena Vista, CO.

Hiking and soaking in the hot springs pool and in Chalk creek happened every day, sometimes we visited the hot springs twice a day! Because it was October, we sometimes had the creek area to ourselves. One late afternoon, we three soaked in the hot water and looked across the creek to see deer browsing without regard for our presence. These mule deer act like our whitetail deer in Arkansas, but they have tall, mule-like ears. I wonder if they can hear any better than whitetail deer? Chalk creek, at Mt Princeton resort, is about thirty feet across and the cold water rushes across rocks and boulders with spots of very hot water along some edges. We visitors can rearrange the rocks to create sandy soaking pools. The mountain air is cool, but by laying back in the water one is delightfully submerged. Today the resort makes no claims that the water has healing properties, but one hundred years ago this area was advertised as having mineral springs with healing properties. Before the Europeans arrival, the Ute Indians sought out the springs when in the area. All I can say is that the water feels healing to me–both emotionally and physically.


Mule deer browsing at dusk across Chalk creek while we soak in the hot water.

The local landmark named the Chalk Cliffs rises to the north of Chalk Creek. The cabin we rented backed against the chalk-white cliffs rising straight up hundreds of feet. Susan and Jeanne did some difficult exploring of the shard-filled area below the cliffs, coming back more than ready for a long soak. We heard and saw deer there morning and evening. While hiking a different mountain, Susan took this photo of us and the rat terriers with the Chalk Cliffs in the background.

dogs and us

Jeanne and Paula hiking with the Chalk Cliffs appearing the background.

The Arkansas River is a predominate feature of this part of Colorado and we found Heckla Junction public access area and park to be our favorite part of the river. Two different days we explored this river park and reminisced about our dog, Annie, swimming across the river the first time we discovered Heckla Junction. Annie was a red heeler who we rescued as a puppy after she was hit by a car on AR highway 16, our notorious narrow and curvy local highway. She was headstrong and half wild, as well as a great swimmer. These pictures give you a sense of the beauty of this high desert area fed by the Arkansas River. The boulders are personalities that inhabit the landscape.


The Arkansas River at Heckla Junction in early October.


The rocks and boulders of Heckla Junction park seem like living creatures lounging in the water.

While in Colorado, we got a phone call from our realtor telling us she had an offer on the Kansas City House! We were hopeful that we could find an ideal buyer. Before our trip I had seen a doctor about a suspicious spot on the mammogram of my remaining breast, but I felt hopeful that it was benign. I had chosen to seek a second opinion and found a woman surgeon in KC. We had an appointment after our trip to Colorado. That small growth was not benign.

The first offer on the house fell through, but a second one appeared and looked promising. Adjusting to the shock of a cancer diagnosis is not easier the second time. Adjusting to this new reality and considering my options took time and energy. Time at home and time with Jeanne both helped. Along side of this bad news, came the good news that the sale of the house was proceeding. My surgery was scheduled for Tuesday, November 21 and the closing on the house was to happen November 30. We needed to have everything out of the house by Saturday five days after surgery! Jeanne’s cousins helped load the rental truck and we did leave KC on schedule.

Friends have been supportive. Returning to the routines and rhythms of living together on our homestead has sustained me. Yoga classes at the Arkansas Yoga Center ( have helped me regain my strength and full range of motion in my arm and shoulder. In fact, yesterday I moved three huge rocks with the help of a prized homestead tool. Over a decade ago a friend gave us this unique tool—it is six-foot long pry bar created from the axle of a Model T Ford! One end is modified to slip underneath the rock to initiate movement. Once I can get the rock (really a boulder) to wiggle, I know I can move it. And I did without hurting my back or shoulders.

After having our favorite carpenter, Kas, do some major renovation needed in our cottage/storage area, we are sorting and organizing and passing things along. We are rearranging all our indoor spaces, as well as trying to clear space in the cottage for me to have a three season quilting studio! This is a dream that pleases me and excites my creative self every day.

Kas will also be working with us next month as we add more insulation and our first ever ceiling to our house. We’ll be up on scaffolding and working over our heads for several weeks, but after that will enjoy our beadboard ceiling every day. In winter, the house will be warmer and in summer it should be cooler. Jeanne researched insulation to try and find something with relatively minimal environmental impact. She found this one with a R-14 value: 4’x 8’ sheets of 2” thick ThermaSheath (polyisocyanurate) from a company called R-Max (special order from Home Depot). Some companies make this with ozone-depleting processes. Others don’t, so check out your sources. We’d have preferred to use a more natural material, but this product is a panel that can be nailed to the bottom of the rafters, adding to our existing nontoxic insulation.

Here at Cedar Hill in the Boston Mountains of the Arkansas Ozarks, we have hundreds of daffodils popping up in sunny spots. The snowdrops are setting buds even without any snow. If you think we do not get snow here, you are wrong. Here’s a snowbound picture from last year. Climate change has brought us a mild winter. Today it was 65 degrees! On February 1 we planted the Amish Snap Peas we are fond of eating–often we eat them in the garden right off the vine because they are so fresh and crunchy! Our Virginia bluebells are waiting for their chance at center stage again this spring—that hasn’t changed. We are back online and hope 2012 will be a good year for all of us to reduce our carbon footprint by growing more of our own food and by staying home to enjoy all home has to offer.


Eight inches of snow covers everything in our Rusty, Rustic shade garden last year.


The women at Serendipity Yarn ( created a scarecrow for an avid knitter featuring a variety of her UFO's (unfinished ojbects).


Aspens at the lower altitudes were still golden bright. Look closely to see the gold leaves resting on the fir needles here. Behind Jeanne and Paula is an unusually large multi-trunk aspen growing in a sheltered spot.


Images reflected in the window behind Paula create a new dimension to this simple portrait.

January 30, 2012

Time is a Seamstress

Filed under: Homestead garden,Needle and Thread,Paula Mariedaughter,Wildlife — Paula Mariedaughter @ 7:12 am

The wheel of the year has turned through four seasons since we communicated here! “Time is a seamstress, specializing in alterations,” observed Faith Baldwin. We here at Cedar Hill have experienced death, loss and new beginnings all woven together. John O’Donahue cautioned, “…be patient with the natural unevenness and unpredictability of living.” Both people expressed ideas that helped sustain me through a year of unpredictability and rapid change. When my friend Lila shared those two quotes with me last March, I had no idea about the changes I faced!


Virginia bluebells, a native wildflower, up close in our shade garden.

Looking back along the length of the circle of 2011, I’d like to share some of the highlights of my year as recorded by me and my camera. Winter moved into spring with no grand surprises. Virginia bluebells are an expected spring miracle, producing delicate blue flowers when the weather is still unpredictable and cool. I delight in the red-purple of the unopened buds gathered next to the blue of the dangling flowers. The bluebells bloom when the hostas are still nudging their foliage up about six inches. As a spring ephemeral, bluebells gather their sustenance for the year and die back by summer to rest until the next spring.

In early April, our quilt guild held our biennial quilt show creating a deadline for me to finish several quilts I wanted to include in the special exhibit I did called, “When This You See, Remember Us”. I asked others in the guild to loan any timespan, memory or signature quilts for this display and several other women responded. I am pictured here in the midst of the display.


Special Exhibit of Memory Quilts: When This You See, Remember Us.

Guild members also created a large exhibit of antique and vintage quilts from our own collections allowing everyone to see the inspirations of our mothers and grandmothers. You can see the selection of antique quilts I brought to share.

antique quilts

Most of these antique quilts are treasures I found at flea markets or thrift shops over the last thirty years.

In May, the guild gathered together for our annual picnic and Airing of the Quilts where we drape favorite quilts along the fence at a member’s house. After our potluck picnic, we walk the fence and learn about each quilt. Some are antiques and some were finished yesterday. In the picture, Valerie and I were admiring fat quarters of fabric destined for my stash.

Valerie and Paula

Valerie and Paula at the Airing of the Quilts in May.

Jeanne and I planted our big front garden although she was in Kansas City much of the time caring for Fran, her 94-year old mother. I watered and sewed and kept the homestead functioning. The days went quickly, but the evenings did not. I’ve listened to hundreds of audio books from the library over the last three years as I sewed or washed dishes. Our dogs and cats were good company too. One night in the midst of the drought, we had a disturbance in the back yard and I found a raccoon trapped under the two big dogs and the small terrier was nearby, barking her excitement. Once I managed to get the dogs in the house, the raccoon left. I believe that critter must have been desperate for water and came to the stock tanks where we collect water from the roof.

On a late afternoon Shyla, our mixed breed dog, alerted me with her special bark to the presence of a rattlesnake in our driveway. I hustled all three dogs inside and grabbed my camera. The large, but docile, snake was moving steadily into our asparagus bed and away from all the commotion. We are always alert for snakes in the summer, but a recent sighting renews our awareness of their presence.


In late July, we have often seen large timber rattlers passing through our land.

At dawn on the morning of July 20th Jeanne called me to tell me Fran had died in her sleep overnight. She had been failing, so this was not unexpected. We comforted each other and began the process of accepting this loss of the woman who birthed and raised Jeanne. I was there in Kansas City by late afternoon and we began the plans for her funeral and memorial service. You can see the collage of photographs from Fran’s life that we created for the service.

The next months were spent making repairs on Fran’s house, interviewing realtors and preparing for a huge estate sale. I traveled back and forth trying to keep our garden hydrated and the tomatoes, basil and cucumbers picked. Jeanne managed to get home some, but her energies were focused on clearing out Fran’s house of 40 years of possessions, and on finding the perfect new owner for the house her parents bought new in 1969.


We displayed pictures of Fran taken throughout her life.

We planned a Colorado vacation for September to celebrate Jeanne’s birthday, but it had to be postponed until October where it snowed on our first night. Our long time friend Susan accompanied us and our two rat terriers. We returned to central Colorado where we enjoyed the hot springs and hiking in the clear mountain air. On a whim we visited Serendipity Yarn shop ( where we were dazzled by the vibrant yarns. Jeanne and I each bought enough to make a simple scarf. As we planned, I returned and took a refresher lesson on knitting. Once I got my needles clicking, I showed Jeanne how to maneuver her bamboo needles to start her scarf. We made our favorite meals, read and hiked together from the home base of a cabin we had rented. Every day we soaked in the hot springs and melted our cares away! Jeanne’s knee started to heal and my body relaxed all its kinks. Susan was great company and accompanied Jeanne on some of the more adventuresome hikes.


Susan and Jeanne with our dogs hiking in the snow and ice.

As three book lovers, we were enchanted by the Book Nook in Buena Vista. While browsing there I discovered strong words from Susan B. Anthony. In 1871, she is quoted as declaring, “Away with your man-vision! Women propose to reject then all, and begin to dream dreams for themselves.” Susan, Jeanne and I often repeated her words at appropriate moments for the rest of the trip.

One night we opted to eat out at a nearby Mexican restaurant. Driving in the late afternoon, we saw two red foxes playing along the edge of the road. I managed to photograph one as she merged with the dusk.


This elusive red fox showed herself along the edge of the road, then faded into the dusk.

Some things had changed in the area since our last vacation in 2005—we searched and searched for our favorite beaver dam-filled valley. We had visited that valley several times before, but could not find it. I did photograph the recent demise of a tall tree to the persistent nighttime visits from a beaver determined to use that tree as a log for her own purposes. Change is everywhere…. To be continued in early February.

beaver chew

Night time forays allow beaver to select the trees they'll harvest.


Spring Beauty is my original design inspired by the work of other quilters and featuring a spring iris broken in segments by strips of silk. I made the blocks after seeing Adele Athea's quilt in our 2009 quilt show. I separated the blocks when I discovered the iris fabric at our 2011 show and used them to surround the blooming iris.

July 27, 2009

Sustained Commitment: the Gardener’s Challenge

Filed under: Homestead garden,Paula Mariedaughter,Subsistence Living — Paula Mariedaughter @ 7:49 am

Clematis Among the Eastern White Pine Cones in Paula's Wreath

Spring finds every gardener full of enthusiasm for the turning of the seasons. We want to turn the soil of our gardens and work magic with Mother Nature. We are ready to turn our backs on winter and our faces toward the sun. We gather our seeds, tools and bring our grand hopes to our plantings. The new seedlings and spurts of growth spur us on to get up early and work long days in our grubby garden clothes. As the days get hotter and the insects arrive to torment us and our vegetative friends, we can falter in our efforts to weed, water and pick hornworms. Tim Stark put it this way, ” After twelve years of growing vegetables, I have learned to accept that every [growing] season presents a unique set of conditions that invariably prove to be less than optimal.” Stark wrote this in Heirloom: Notes from an Accidental Tomato Farmer. Wind, rain, no rain, bugs, heat, cold, and/or animal attacks can overwhelm the most enthusiastic gardener.

I try to look to my successes and minimize a focus on the non-successes. When I started quilting in 1994, my mentor Lila Rostenberg interrupted me when I tried to point out the mistakes in my current project. Lila assured me that there was no need to point out my mistakes. I took Lila’s advice seriously and always pass it on to my quilting students. I also appy it to my garden projects. When I am in my garden I employ the same strategy–it is a strategy you know! I learn what I can about the plants that do not thrive and I keep trying until it becomes clear that my garden is not meant to grow, for example, lovely delphiniums because they cannot tolerate our hot days and hot nights. I look for similar alternative plants. In the case of delphiniums, I found larkspur which do thrive here and even self-seed themselves for next year.

Today I’ve prepared a garden tour of some of our early-season successes starting in our main garden. At the center “grows” a driftwood figure we call our Dancing Goddess! The original was a piece of driftwood we discovered down the mountain along the river after a storm. It took a decade for the first Dancing Goddess to melt back into the earth. The current goddess is formed from part of the root system from an Osage Orange (also called Bodark or Hedge) tree we had to remove twenty years ago. Her outstretched arm holds this pinecone wreath I fashioned from the cones from the Eastern White Pine. I am fascinated by the curvy shapes of these cones. Not pictured, but below the Dancing Goddess, lounge bright red bee balm flowers to entice hummingbirds.


Striper Hunts Bugs Under the Tomatoes

Striper was a howling kitten when Jeanne found him abandoned down by the river. Named for his distinctive bold orange stripes he is posed below the thriving tomatoes. Each morning and evening, Striper also looks for bugs while I scan the tomato stems carefully for the camouflaged hornworms disguised as just another tomato stem. Below Stiper are the basil plants and to the right are sage plants spilling into the path.


Cleome or Spider Flowers Dot the Garden with Color by Mid-Summer

When we expanded our garden this spring I moved these purple coneflowers, the silver lamb’s ear and the cleome to our former visually neglected compost area. We needed the bed space for edibles. I landscaped with large rocks from the river to provide steps in this steep area. In the background you can see that Jeanne has created a huge mound of fresh materials to make fresh compost. The gold flowers are the first blooms of the rambling pumpkin patch. Some of the ten foot vines reached to the fence and the deer pulled on the vines through the fence to consume the tender growth.


Jeanne's Carefully Mounded Compost Pile in the Background with Huge Gourd leaves on the Far Left of the Picture

Our birdhouse gourd vines exhibited exuberant growth up the bamboo trellis I’ve provided. They seem to grow ten inches overnight and the long curling tendrils reach out for support and comfort (or so it seems,)when I walk by. Yesterday I found the first of the delicate white flowers that will transform themselves into foot long gourds in less thatn two months. These miracles of creation draw me back to the garden day after day. I depend on them to renew me. And I depend on these miracles to renew my commitment to hauling water and attending to the other needs of a successful garden–most of which I enjoy.

Gourds large and small were used by native peoples for serving dishes, mixing bowls, plates, dippers, storage and even for heating liquids. Once dried and cured gourds are strong and useful tools. To heat liquids in a gourd, one does not place the gourd over a hot fire. Instead, one heats several small clean rocks on the edge of a fire. Then using wood tongs the heated rocks are carefully dropped into the liquid transferring the heat from the rocks to the liquid.

Birdhouse Gourds in the Background and Lavender in the Foreground

Birdhouse Gourds in the Background and Lavender in the Foreground

Jeanne and I choose to add flowers and herbs to the mix in our vegetable garden. From comfrey and astragalus to foxgloves, coneflowers and morning glories we depend on these to bring pollinaters and to offer spots of color and texture to the garden canvas. This is our most ambitious garden; we are growing strawberries, corn, basil, garlic, cucumbers, yellow squash, carrots, pumpkins, watermelon, three varieties of tomatoes, gourds, several types of beans and a variety of greens. Last fall we planted three apple trees and cleared around a “found” mulberry tree.

Morning Glories

Morning Glories Beginning to Climb the Obelisk

Our yellow crookneck squash are buzzing with bees and beginning to produce the tender squash as the flowers fade to fruit, or in this case vegetables. The leaves are over a foot across and erect like an umbrella. We are seeing unwelcome signs of powdery mildew on the leaves of the squash and the cucumbers. Both of these plants have prickly hairs that irritate the forearms as we pick underneath the leaves searching for young fruit before they become oversized. Some people have a severe reaction to this irritant. Beware.

Squash Plants

Lush Growth on the Squash Plants with many Cleome in the Background

Our end-of-July garden tour of Cedar Hill closes with a closeup picture of the tendrils that tether these luxuriant birdhouse gourd vines to any nearby object. Each tendril has its own agenda as it stretches and twines toward a stationary object. The bamboo is harvested from our own homegrown stand. Our bamboo trellis lifts the vines off the ground and toward the sunlight allowing air to circulate among the leaves. Circulating air minimizes the chance of invasions of unfriendly mildew spores here in the garden as well as indoors if not using air conditioning.

If you look closely you will see that I have used jute to train the vines up the slippery bamboo poles. Gourds too have prickly leaves, but assisting the vines by tying them carefully to the bamboo is part of my ongoing relationship to the summer garden. Cool moist mornings are my favorite time of a day in the garden. The early morning promise is rather like the hopefulness of spring. Sustained commitment to nurturing and harvesting rewards you with snacks of perfect strawberries and tastes of green beans so tender when plucked off the bush that you do not dream of cooking them. Munch them whole while they last. It will be a long wait until next year’s crop.


Tethering Tendrils of the Birdhouse Gourds

July 22, 2009

Rambunctious Canine Meets Rambling Pumpkin

Filed under: Homestead garden,Paula Mariedaughter,Subsistence Living — Paula Mariedaughter @ 9:30 am
Early July Pumpkin Patch

Early July in the Pumpkin Patch

I fell for a warty, peach-colored pumpkin at the Fayetteville Farmer’s Market last fall. The knobby growths and pale color attracted my imagination as the multitude of pumpkins jostled for attention on the long flatbed trailer. The pale color and the unusual texture pleased me in the same manner that I find the nubs seen in raw silk fabric add a pleasing texture to a smooth silk fabric. I circled the display searching for the perfect pumpkin to bring home to Cedar Hill. When I asked the farmer about the name of this variety, he pulled out the catalogue and pointed to Galeuse d’Eysines adding that they are delicious pumpkins encouraging me to steam it and to eat it.

I discovered that my adopted pumpkin was from Eysines, France introduced in 1883. This unique pumpkin, Cucurbita maxima, was also called Warted Sugar Marrow. I was sure my pumpkin was no hybrid with a pedigree like this! I had fantasies of growing my own next spring.

Sugar Marrow Pumpkin

Sugar Marrow Pumpkin from Eysines, France introduced in 1883

I displayed the Galeuse d’Eysines in several spots in the house that fall and winter appraising the personality and charm of this new acquaintance. By early spring, I had moved it to a spot outside near the front bench. As the pumpkin began to sink in on itself, I discovered that Shyla, our youngest adopted mutt, had enjoyed the texture in her own way. Shyla had shredded skin and the inner membranes containing the seeds. I found seeds and membranes scattered near the rock wall that marks our first garden bed. I vaguely hoped some might sprout, but had no expectations.

Today we have three rambling pumpkin vines climbing over and around our former compost area. Circumstantial evidence led me to believe that those wandering pumpkin seeds did sprout! I noticed the small pumpkin plants nestled near the rock wall before the deer did. I quickly transplanted them to a sunny spot below the main garden where they will be able to spread their tendrils far and wide before fall ends their adventure. I do not want to “count my pumpkins before they hatch”, but I am extremely hopeful that this will be the beginning of a beautiful relationship. Some of the immature pumpkins are the size of golfballs–smooth with no warts yet. When I wrote this last week I was convinced that I had the wonderful warty pumpkin growing.

Today I believe that I jumped to conclusions! The pumpkins a bigger, still white, and have no warts. Among my scrapbook items for last fall I found a label for a “White Carving Pumpkin” from Bottomleys Evergreens in North Carolina and a product number to go with that pumpkin. I searched their online catalogue to locate the botanical name of the thirty pumpkins glowing in our garden but found no white pumpkins. I have emailed them about my dilemma and will report any results. Jeanne and I have resolved to buy seed for the Warty Sugar Marrow pumpkin for next year!

Saving seeds from hybrid plants is risky because the seeds are often not true to form. Seeds from non-hybrid plants, or open-pollinated seeds (sometimes called heirloom seeds), are reliable in producing plants and fruit like the parent. We have transformed our garden this year with our sweat and hand tools to make room for more edible plants. All our new seeds will be open-pollinated so we can save our own seeds for the future!

Our previous raised beds did not provide room for extreme ramblers like pumpkins, gourds and watermelons–all of which we are trying this year. Each of these varieties displays an affection for hot days and nights. I am energized by the “lust for life” of the cucurbit family. The Miniature White Cucumbers we planted are so prolific that I need to eat one every time I open the refrigerator. Picked at three inches long and chilled in the solar-powered refrigerator they are a perfect summer treat. With a sweet cucumber flavor and skin as tender as an apple, this cucumber is best eaten raw and I do.


Shyla, the Rambunctious Pumpkin Shredder

A great source for open pollinated seeds is Seed Saver’s Exchange, 3094 North Winn Road, Decorah, Iowa 52101, 563-382-5990, All the seeds I have mentioned here were purchased from Seed Savers including:
Birdhouse gourd: Lagenaria siceraria
Watermelon: Crimson Sweet, Citrullus Lantatus
Miniature White Cucumbers, Cucumis sativus

I was challenged to understand which of these might cross-pollinate and produce an undesired, inedible hybrid. Seed Savers recommended The Compleat Squash: A Passionate Grower’s Guide to Pumpkins, Squashes and Gourds by Amy Goldman (2004). The author indicates that squashes will not crossbred with melons and cucumbers. However, squashes in the same species do cross with one another. We have kept it simple this year by growing only one variety of squash.

The squash, watermelon and cucumbers were purchased seed. Our Warted Sugar Marrow pumpkin was planted by a rambunctious canine and nurtured by Mother Nature until Paula discovered it sprouting in deer territory. It has been a team effort with Jeanne carrying water to the pumpkin patch occasionally. All of these are rampant growers with big leaves and curling tendrils reaching for support. Some of the pumpkin vines are twelve feet long and still growing! I have developed an intimate relationship with each plant. I find myself infected by their “lust for life” and energized by their exuberance. Thank you, Shyla, for your part in this story!

July 14, 2009

Subsistence and Resistance

In a recent column in Orion (May-June 2009) Derrick Jensen criticized the “simplicity” movement and what he says is one of its core questions, “If our world is really looking down the barrel of environmental catastrophe, how do I live my life right now?” Jensen’s criticisms of simplicity living are multi-faceted, but the heart of his argument, as I understand it, is that this culture is “killing the planet” and must be stopped, just as a psychopath rampaging through your house and killing your family members would need to be stopped. In light of the severity of the problem (a culture that is killing the planet), lifestyle choices are insignificant and resistance is imperative.

Reform or Revolution?

Yellow squash plant

Lush yellow squash plant

While I agree wholeheartedly that we need to resist and stop the globalized industrial capitalist patriarchy that is killing the planet, those of us living in the “developed” world desperately need to create vastly changed human cultures that live in a way that benefits nature and benefits humans. In many “developing” countries ancient and sustainable subsistence cultures still remain more or less intact outside the cities and land areas taken over by development. But in the developed world the takeover by globalized patriarchy is so complete that almost everyone is dependent on the captor (globalized patriarchy) for their basic means of living – food, shelter, water, clothing, fuel. In subsistence societies where the earth is healthy (as it was prior to patriarchal civilization), basic needs of life can be met by every person either in direct interaction with the earth or with members of their own local community.

The value of individual lifestyle changes depends largely on whether the purpose and effect of the changes are reform or revolutionary change. For example, buying efficient, “green” consumer goods is an act aimed at reform. While the “green” products may be an improvement over older, “legacy” goods in terms of environmental impact, consuming the goods supports continued large scale industry and business almost as usual. Production of the products is far more likely to harm the earth than help her. In contrast, the development of subsistence cultures that benefit the earth and replace globalized patriarchy is revolutionary change. People living in lands now dominated by “developed” nations can take steps toward developing matriarchal, subsistence cultures. When they do, their individual lifestyle changes contribute to revolution. Just as acts of resistance to globalized patriarchy can attempt to reform society (leaving massive industrialization and male dominance in place) or effect radical change, daily living practices can intend and produce reform or revolution (or perpetuate the status quo).

Post-Patriarchal Living

I don’t think that we can “stop this culture from killing the planet” without both resistance and creation of new/old subsistence cultures. We need to both stop the patriarchal earth-destroying culture and create new earth-loving cultures. The devastated earth needs the restoration and caretaking that humans in matriarchal, subsistence societies can provide her. Freeing the earth of possession by patriarchy and seeing nature begin to recover is a big motivation, but people also need to be able to envision and experience post-industrial, post-capitalist, and post-patriarchal ways of living. For most people in “developed” nations an end to globalized industrial capitalist partriarchy would seem like suicide – an end to the basic necessities of life (as well as the treasured frills). By starting to create subsistence cultures now, more people in the developed world can believe that there is a path to take out of globalized patriarchy and industrialization that allows life, including their own, to continue.

We also need to influence the form of the subsistence societies that will follow globalized patriarchy. Globalized patriarchy is heading toward collapse because it is taking from nature at a rate that exceeds nature’s ability to replenish herself. Subsistence living will follow collapse, but past and present subsistence societies have frequently been patriarchal and harmful to women. As a woman I greatly fear male violence and other attempts to control women during and following societal collapse. Beginning to consciously transition to subsistence now can help create cultures that are matriarchal – egalitarian, based in strong bonds between women and respect for all of life. The end of globalized patriarchy can be a door opening into a far better world, but not if any form of patriarchy continues.

Building Subsistence Cultures

At the heart of any human culture are the ways people relate to the earth to provide for basic needs – shelter, water, food, heating. As members of the “developed” nations turn to subsistence living, new subsistence cultures will develop from humans meeting their basic needs through direct relationship with local nature and local human community. These are “lifestyle changes” that create new subsistence cultures. Subsistence gardening is one activity that begins to build subsistence cultures. As Richard Heinberg has pointed out, without fossil fuels and machinery many more people will need to become involved in growing food. Using techniques such as Ecology Action’s Grow Biointensive (Jeavons, 2002, How To Grow More Vegetables, 7th Edition) people can work with nature to grow more food and more nutritious food on less land. (One person can be fed with the crops grown on as little as 4000 square feet using Grow Biointensive methods while “modern” agriculture requires 15,000-30,000 square feet for the average U.S. diet and much more for heavy meat eaters.) This method of horticulture grows topsoil as well as crops, benefiting nature. With large numbers of people gardening small areas of land, the land can be well cared for and areas of former farmland can be returned to nature. People able to grow their own food (including staples such as grain and potatoes) lose a big chunk of their dependence on globalized patriarchy and become freer to resist.

Sweet corn, oats, comfrey, astragalus

Sweet corn, our first attempt at oats, comfrey, astragalus, sage

Gardening can be more or less an act of building subsistence culture. At Cedar Hill our goal is to help build a subsistence, matriarchal culture, not just to grow a few tomatoes. We are a long way from an ideal of growing most of our diet and using no outside inputs, but we are moving in that direction. We’re growing at least some dietary staples like dried beans, potatoes and, this year, a few oats. We use mostly heirloom and other open pollinated seeds and are saving the seeds. We use hand tools exclusively so the energy used to grow and maintain the garden comes from the sun and human power (though the hand tools are well crafted 20 year old industrial-made tools). We’ve never used chemical fertilizers or pesticides, but we have brought in alfalfa meal, greensand, manure, worm castings and compost produced off site over the years. Now we are getting very serious about the compost pile(s) and planning what crops to grow so we’ll have enough carbon and nitrogen in the residues to create enough compost to fertilize the entire garden. We collect water off our roof into big stock tanks (again industrial-made) and water by hand, so we are trying out plantings that can get by without much irrigation in our very hot summers. We are still trucking in mulch, wonderful ash shavings from a local handle factory, but we did use oak leaves for one potato bed this year with successful results.

Lina Sisco Bird Egg heirloom beans, Tomatoes

Lina Sisco Bird Egg heirloom beans, Tomatoes

The men who sold us industrial society were first rate snake oil salesmen. Regaining our lost connection to nature (and to human community) should make up for many supposed “losses” that come to people in the “developed” world with an end to massive modern industry. Subsistence gardeners begin developing a real relationship with the earth – the smell of her soil, the wildly colorful food crops, the native plants returning to the lands freed from agriculture, the insects chomping their way around the garden, the precious predator insects, bug-snarfing toads, the feel of the rains and winds on their own skin. With connection to nature can also come the directly experienced spirituality that so many people in globalized patriarchy have been futilely searching for. Replace patriarchy with matriarchy and “heaven” comes down to earth!

Stop Globalized Patriarchy Now!

Subsistence and resistance. Resistance and subsistence. We need both. But, practitioners of each need to keep their eye on the ball. Globalized patriarchy is destroying the earth. We don’t need minor adjustments and reformist change. The small cuts in fossil fuel emissions by 2020 promised by the current version of the ACES bill in the U.S. Congress does next to nothing to reverse global warming, a frightening example of the failure of the reformist approach. We likewise can’t afford to get so busy out in the garden that we forget to resist. Subsistence is in some ways easier than resistance as one could co-exist without active opposition to globalized patriarchy (at least until the waters rise, the bug-eating toads go extinct, or cancer strikes home).

On the other hand, a singleminded focus on resistance prioritizes the public (traditionally male) sphere over the “private” (traditionally female) sphere, as Maria Mies and Veronika Bennholdt-Thomsen (The Subsistence Perspective, 1999) and Sharon Astyk (Depletion and Abundance, 2008) have pointed out. Politics with a capital “P” and economics with a capital “E” characterize male-dominated, large-scale societies, while daily living and the women who typically provide are more important in small-scale subsistence societies. Revolutions in industrial societies have consistently produced only male-controlled, domination-based societies.

We have to live during and after the revolution and the living could even be the revolution if only everyone, including the power holders, walked out on patriarchy. There isn’t much sign that most people in the developed nations are leaving their modern gadgets (and the rest of globalized industrial patriarchy) behind, so we need resistance and subsistence. As Jensen argues, we need to stop this culture from killing the planet.

May 7, 2009

Foxgloves in Abundance

Filed under: Homestead garden,Paula Mariedaughter — Paula Mariedaughter @ 10:56 am
Lush foxgloves, photo by Paula

Lush foxgloves, photo by Paula

One packet of seeds purchased in the early 1990s has brought a forest of foxgloves into our lives. At the time, I was operating Everlastings Etcetera where I was growing and crafting dried flowers and herbs. I poured over seed catalogues and books looking for information and possibilities. Mark and Terry Silber’s book The Complete Book of Everlastings is still my favorite resource about drying flowers and herbs. I knew that foxgloves could not be dried, but I wanted to experience the beauty of those tall spires of bell shaped flowers. I started flats and flats of seedlings and then planted them outside as the weather permitted.

With so much to do as I grew and harvested, then crafted wreaths and bouquets that I marketed at craft fairs and the farmer’s market, I neglected my foxglove seedlings. The everlastings were my bread and butter. By August I was desperate for help with planting the overgrown foxglove plants still in the seedling trays. As a birthday request, I asked Jeanne for help in getting them moved into the ground. The foxgloves were amazingly tolerant of the crowded conditions and the delayed move to a permanent home. Most of them thrived in the eastern exposure where they are protected from the hottest of the afternoon sun.


As biennials the plants must go through one winter before they bloom. In early May, Jeanne and I were rewarded with dramatic spires of long lived flowers in shades of white, pink, lavender and magenta. Each individual flower throat was marked with dark dots leading the way for fat, buzzing bumblebees to drink their nectar.

Foxgloves are prolific self-seeders if you leave the stalks in place long enough to set seeds. For the past fifteen years we have allowed the foxgloves to wander where they will. The seedlings seem to thrive at the base of the rock walls we use to retain the soil of our raised beds. Other exotic tall flowers with spires that I have tried to nurture along are delphiniums and bells of Ireland with no success–probably because of our hot summers.

Foxgloves are one of our garden successes. I have developed a gardening philosophy that embraces success. Rare specimens of individual plants do not usually intrigue me. I’d rather have lush groupings of ordinary plants with the emphasis on lush. With this philosophy, I can gather large cuttings of ordinary mint to scent the house. My eyes can feast on masses of a self-seeding dark green hosta or wild ferns like the maidenhair fern and christmas fern that thrive in our woods. I can pot up seedlings of the volunteer hostas and gather up seeds from the foxgloves to share with friends. Some gardeners regard self seeding plants as unwanted additions, and sometimes they are–for example perilla. But I consider foxgloves and others to be durable goods for the garden. Plant sellers want you to return again and again for their products. Why not grow your own whenever you can?

I use masses of ordinary plants who often chose new settings for themselves. These new combinations of textures put together by Mother Nature can delight the eye. You can see in the photo below how the huge wild mullein leaves add a silver grey texture among the foxgloves. The mullein plants volunteered in that spot. I do weed out some uninvited visitors, seeing my action as a form of editing. A tightly controlled garden does not appeal to me. Each spring can bring new adventures and discoveries especially when we welcome the abundance that self-seeding plants offer us.

Path among the blooms, photo by Paula

Path among the blooms, note the large mullein leaves, photo by Paula

May 6, 2009

Durable Goods Can Last a Lifetime!

Filed under: Economics,Homestead garden,Paula Mariedaughter — Paula Mariedaughter @ 4:52 pm

The concept of “durable goods” has been on my mind. I remember my shock when I realized that economists defined durable goods as something that lasts three years or longer. How did this come to be? As buyers we want excellent quality and a long life for our purchases whether it be a refrigerator, a wheelbarrow or a garden fork. Sellers tend to want to sell us products of poor quality needing replacement as soon as possible. In fact, economists have coined the term “interpurchase time” to describe the time between two successive purchases. The seller wants you to replace your purchase as soon as possible. Planned obsolescence can produce profits, but assaults the planet.

This desire for short term profits controls many business operations in a way not known in previous decades. As consumers and citizens we can be trapped by this perverse and shortsighted goal. Unless we actively resist we will be trapped into participation in the assault on the planet. Durable goods that are not durable are the norm. I believe we need to evaluate every purchase or acquisition we make by considering how long we can expect the item to remain useful. This is the opposite of a throwaway mentality. Authentically durable products are “green “ by definition!

Nikki lounging on the mulch

Nikki lounging on the mulch

Last weekend my neighbor and I hauled two loads of wood shavings from a local handle factory to use as mulch for our yard and garden. We borrowed a pickup truck and drove 23 miles round trip to haul the shavings which are a byproduct of making ash handles for tools. I have been mulching with these shavings for almost twenty years. I enjoy working with the shavings because they are a long-lasting mulch and bring no weed seeds and because theysmell of freshly cut wood. The blond color of the shavings help us to see any snake visitors we might have moving in the yard. We have been able to eliminate any lawn mowing by laying down the shavings. We do use a person-powered weed wacker to keep grass down on the outskirts of the homestead. I feel like a sculptor as I spread the hardwood shavings in paths and around beds.

Our ash shavings will last between six months and one year depending on how thick we spread them, how much traffic they receive, and how wet the weather is that year. The ash shavings would be considered a nondurable goods or soft goods because they are used up in less than three years. In previous years, we have had the luxury of having a dump truck deliver a huge pile of shavings about every eight months paying $100 for the delivery. This service is no longer available. The shavings are free when we haul them, but cost us in gas and in our time and put wear and tear on any vehicle we use. Our shavings do not come packaged in plastic.

I use Jeanne’s vintage pitchfork and vintage wheelbarrow to move the shavings to every corner of our homestead. This wheelbarrow and pitchfork were first used by Jeanne twenty-five years ago to muck out stalls when she had horses. Jeanne purchased both tools in 1974 and both are valuable and durable goods to us. We have replaced the hardwood handles of the wheelbarrow twice and had the body repaired once. While waiting for repairs we were forced to buy another wheelbarrow. Searching for a sturdy well-balanced wheelbarrow made us realize once again what a treasure we have. Everywhere we looked the quality was inferior. Planned obsolescence plagues our society–this is one of the reasons I haunt and hunt in thrift stores.

All of us serious about living as if the earth matters want to minimize our participation in consumption. Acquiring products you intend to keep for a long time makes sense. I propose that we the people redefine durable goods. When Jeanne and I bought our garden fork and shovel in 1985 we focused on securing lifetime tools. We have dug our garden beds in the rocky Arkansas soil and cared for those tools. We still use them and I believe both will prove to be lifetime tools. One of the reasons our tools are not broken is because we were given a pry bar to help forcibly lift the large rocks we encountered. Our pry bar was a gift from a friend who is an Arkansas native. She informed us when she appeared one day with this tool that it is a modified axle of a Model A Ford first produced in 1927. Now that is what I call durable!

March 9, 2009

A Thousand Daffodils

Filed under: Homestead garden,Paula Mariedaughter — Paula Mariedaughter @ 9:52 am

Jeanne has been planning the revival of our homestead garden for the last year. It began with our resolution to have twenty or so large sweetgum trees cut down to recover the sun for our garden beds. Removing those trees was an adventure (and misadventure) to tell about another day.

Pioneer Chimney

Pioneer Chimney

Last month Jeanne and I ordered seeds from Johnny’s Selected Seeds and from Seed Saver. Over the weekend we took advantage of the unseasonably warm days of 70 degrees to start digging and planting our garden. We loosened the soil in several of the terraced beds we made 21 years ago and added mushroom compost and alfalfa meal purchased from Nitron for organic fertilizer. We were pleased by all the earthworms working our soil. (For many years we had access to worm castings from a worm farm.) We reunited some of the purchased seeds with the earth by planting collards, swiss chard, bok choi, and mustard. The kale seeds we had saved from our abundant crop of last year. Of course we mulched and fenced. I had to move a lot of foxglove volunteers out of the beds and relocate them for their spring bloom.

We have over a thousand daffodils blooming–many from the pioneers who migrated to these Ozark hills in the late 1800s! The deer do not munch on daffodils, so over the years those bulbs have thrived and multiplied. Last year after bloom time I divided many of the crowded clumps located behind the chimney you see here and replanted them in new spots around our place. It was hard work then, but worth it this year to see all those jaunty yellow blooms. The celandine poppies tolerate the cold well and have begun to show the fern-like foliage that you see in the photo in the upper right picture. No blooms yet. Lila Rostenberg ( took the chimney photo last spring during our foxglove viewing event.

We have Red Russian kale that overwintered and is ready to eat in salads. Also cilantro and parsley are ready to eat. It was a wonderful warm weekend to be outside digging in the dirt.

With the mild weather, we took the opportunity to get up on our roof to play chimney sweep as we cleaned out the stovepipe of the woodstove. Since Jeanne will be in Kansas City over equinox when we need to move the angle of our solar panels to correspond to the angle of the sun for the best solar gain, we decided to reposition the panels while we were up on the roof on Sunday.

After the outside projects, I finished the binding and label on my last quilt to go in our quilt guild’s biennial quilt show. Jeanne finished the installation work on this new blog and encouraged me to post an entry. This spring we are renewing old projects like the garden and beginning new ones like this blog.

Photo credits: We thank photographer Judy VanderHam for the two photos in the top banner. The flat boulder on the left shelters Paula’s collection of fossils we locals call Bear’s paws because of the shape and resemblance to a large gray paw. Judy’s picture on the right portrays a blooming Celandine Poppy. The Celandine Poppies (Stylophorum diphyllum) bloom in early spring and are efficient self-seeders. The fern-like foliage is attractive through summer and fall. We thank Lila Rostenberg who photographed the pioneer chimney behind our house. We believe the chimney was built in the 1890s by the Mahaffey family who homesteaded this land.

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