building a beautiful and bountiful world in collaboration with nature

Archive for May, 2012

Natural Wonders of the Sun and Vegetable Worlds

Solar eclipse Sunday here in California.  It was a partial one, but as the quality of the light began changing in the late afternoon, we took a break from the planting and fencing and other spring doings to watch the shadow coming through the little dot in a piece of paper.  From a crescent to a full circle inside a circle and back to a crescent. It felt bigger, more awesome, than I had anticipated.  And then as we were sitting back from our intent focus on that little shadow, one of the kids with us pointed to all the little crescents being made by the pine tree.  We were surrounded by eclipse shadows!  The pictures don’t do justice to the moment, but it was a great reminder to look at the broader view in everything.

One other natural wonder that came in a bag of carrots my husband purchased last week:

The spring plantings are almost all in.  More time for blogging next week!




The Sense for Timing

Gardening is about timing.  Here in the Sierra foothills we’ve gone from spring weather to early summer weather in the past two weeks, and I’ve been spending extra time getting my vegetable garden together to both take advantage of and keep up with the weather.  I want the soil warm, which is happening very quickly this year, and yet I also want the air temperature not too blazing hot or even the sun-loving tomatoes will be hard pressed to gracefully adapt to being newly transplanted in the ground.  It’s a weather pattern that makes me wish I did have a clone who could help fork the beds and work in compost, get corn, zucchini, and beans seeded, and get a shade structure up over the lettuce so it doesn’t decide to bolt.

Gardening is about timing, and I’ve been asked several times in recent weeks if this blog covers “gardening with the moon and stuff like that.”  I. personally, have trouble with moon calendars and similar dogmatic inventions.  Some moon calendars use the tropical zodiac (think astrology), and some moon calendars use the sidereal zodiac (think astronomy).  Proponents of each swear by them, and while both camps agree that root vegetables should be sown while the moon is in an earth sign and leafy vegetables while the moon is in a water sign, they don’t agree at all on when that happens because the sidereal zodiac is roughly 30 degrees different from the tropical zodiac. (And there are actually multiple sidereal zodiacs – so which one to choose?)  My biggest objection to moon calendars, however, is that they can never come close to matching the potential timing awareness of a human who is listening to their bodymind system and its intuitive information.

Nature is built using rhythms and cycles.  This sense of timing is built into everything.  Lettuce seeds, for example, are monitoring their environment, looking for that perfect combination of moisture, temperature, and light – the convergence of which tells the seed that the time is right to germinate.  We now know that birds are sensing – monitoring – the earth’s magnetic field, even though we don’t yet know how they sense it.  Biolgists have discovered that human cells, hearts, and brains sense a huge array of environmental factors including the earth’s magnetic field, the gravitational pull not only of the moon but of other planets as well, and all kinds of electromagnetic signals including the “vibes” from other humans.  In The Bond, Lynne McTaggert quotes one chronobiolgist as describing our body-mind as a highly sensitive “satellite” taking in a wide array of information in each and every second.

Timing can be critical in gardening.  It can make or break the success of a sowing of peas or carrots or onions.  I don’t want to trust my timing decisions to something as simplified as a moon calendar, because much more than the moon is circulating in the heavens, in the atmosphere, in the soil and water, and in my life.  I much prefer to learn to listen to my bodymind’s intuition.  I prefer to make mistakes, sometimes, as I decipher how to listen to it accurately.  I know that the 20 billion bits of information per second parallel processor that is my subconscious mind is going to be more accurate to my Here and Now, that any outside system, any outside body of knowledge can ever be.  I prefer to develop my ability to “feel” when it is time to plant or cultivate or harvest.

What are your experiences with moon calendars?  Do you find them useful?  How do you tune into your bodymind’s sense of timing?

Charcoal Follow-up

Happy May Day!  It has been the most beautiful spring this year.  Warm days interspersed with a few cooler, rainy ones.  The grass is growing tall.  Roses are already flowering.  And there are so many amazing shades of green everywhere I look.  The young grape vines are a lime green.  The rosemary is deep forest green.  The lavender and artichoke are gray-green.  The kale is a deep blue-green, and there seems to be a million shades in between all of those easy to name greens.

Today I mostly want to report back on my charcoal mini-experiment.  Here again are the photos of the newly pricked out Komatsuna plants.  Crushed charcoal (about 1 teaspoon) was added to the 3 right side pots of each 6 pack.

Here are photos of the same plants 2 weeks later.

There is no noticeable difference. Now this is nowhere near big enough of a sampling to be definitive, but I do think it helps clarify where and when charcoal is helpful.  My potting soil mix is one half of a commercial blend that contains some worm castings and one half my own homegrown compost.  It’s a rich mix and clearly the charcoal couldn’t make it any better.  This may be true in general of well cared for temperate soils with a high humus content.  Getting that humus to stick around in tropical soils is a real trick – which is why the biochar makes such a huge difference to those soils.  Concentrating on good composting techniques and heavy mulching may be equally effective and easier in northern latitudes.

The charcoal is a free extra resource for us and we’ll continue to use it around our woody perennials – the fruit and nut trees, currants and blueberries, for example.  At this point, however, I wouldn’t go out of my way to make it.  Compost and mulch are still the number one priorities for building living soils in this area.

What experiments are you trying in your gardens this spring?  How are they going?