No occupation is so delightful to me as the culture of the earth, and no culture comparable to that of the garden.
There is not a sprig of grass that shoots uninteresting to me.
~ Thomas Jefferson ~
Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.
~ Martin Luther ~
An old friend gave a sigh of surrender and gave up Thursday afternoon – on the eve of Summer Solstice. Gravity, a deep wound, and a hollowing heart proved to be more than she could bear. She laid herself down in a swirling storm of wind and torrential rain.
Our neighbor often tells the story of how the tree leaned over, many years ago, in a severe storm. The man who had planted and cared for her enlisted the help of the neighbor’s husband. Together, they lifted her up and placed her roots back in to the earth. We would have done the same for her. However, that is not an option this time.
We will miss her…….
The pollinators will miss the profusion of food her blossoms offered up each Spring. The sparrows and the nuthatches and the tufted titmice will miss the protection of her densely interwoven branches. A whole host of wildlife, and our family dogs, will miss her imperfect, pocked, and wormy apples. The dogwood, the pecans, the crape myrtle, and the holly – her neighbors for 40-some years – will no doubt miss her presence.
I will miss her for all of the above and more……
But I will never forget the night, in late summer, about 5 or 6 years ago, looking out of the bedroom window and seeing a group of white-tailed deer, silhouetted against the silvery moonlit grass, dining upon her apples. I don’t know what it was that awakened me that night, and compelled me to rise and look out of the window. Maybe it was her, saying “Look! I have something to show you! Please don’t gather up my fallen apples and put them in the trash. For I have worked hard to produce them, and they are a bountiful feast for the deer and the opossum and the squirrel and the coyote.” I never raked up and disposed of a single fallen apple after that night.
Nor will I forget the sight of Ricky, a rescued German Shepherd Dog whom we had recently adopted, thoroughly enjoying one of life’s simple pleasures – snacking. I smile when I remember the sight of that sweet old arthritic German Shepherd – with worn down teeth – quietly sashaying through the dappled shade of the pecan tree, making his way to the apple tree, browsing through the fallen apples, selecting the perfect one, trotting back up into the shady front yard, and lying down to enjoy his selection – core, seeds, stem and all. A heartwarming simple pleasure for a sweet gentle boy who, a year earlier, had been left to starve by cruel stupid people who left him chained to the mobile home they had been evicted from – out in the middle of nowhere – without food or water.
And there is this…..
Thursday morning, hours before the storm arrived, I stood in the shade of the apple tree’s branches, somewhat reluctantly obliging our youngest dog while he rolled around and tossed and played with two small green apples he found lying in the grass. As I stood there, the words “Tell my story” presented themselves very clearly to me. And I thought “Yes, I should………I will.” Standing in that same spot on Friday morning, next to her snapped and broken trunk, I felt sad – my heart was heavy – and I felt like I too gave up, gave in, surrendered a little bit. I gave in to some things that have been weighing heavy on my mind and in my heart. And I gave up trying to figure it all out – fix it – see the positive – find the best solution. I reached out and rested my hand on her fine cool bark and told her, “We will miss you. And I surrendered a little bit today too.”
A little over a year ago, during a writing retreat, I wrote about my friend and our connection. I’ll locate that notebook and post the story here….soon. For, it seems, now is the time to tell the story of The Apple Tree and Me.
I used to be afraid of the bumble bee.
Now I am afraid for the bumble bee.
~ Nib Loblolly ~
I love rusty metal and galvanized tin. There is a fair amount of both in our landscaping and on our property. (There is a dear husband of a certain dear friend of mine who may wince and shake his head if his wife reveals that I have announced my love of such metals on the world wide web. But that’s ok – he and I can agree on other “loves”, such as animals, pets, my friend, etc. 😊)
My admiration of galvanized and oxidized can be seen in my unconventional choices in garden containers. For example, I have a galvanized metal trash can that I’ve re-purposed into a large planting container. Normally I plant some purple fountain grass and a couple of other heat-tolerant annuals in it. But not this year. Other forces have been at work! It has become my Can of Surprises.
First surprise: Early in April, an industrious pair of Carolina Wrens built a lovely little camouflaged nest amongst the dried foliage of last year’s fountain grass. I was in “hands-off and observe-only” mode for several weeks while eggs were kept warm, chicks were hatched and fed, and then finally graduated to the great big world outside of the nest in the can. Wow. Graduation Day was nerve-wracking, as 5 little wrens came popping out of that tiny nest and scattered into bushes, onto windowsills, and into other flower pots. Mom & Dad Wren were a bit beside themselves, and so were our two dogs!
Surprise #2 & #3: While the wren family was occupying the can, some little wisps of green began to peek up and grow in the spot that the asparagus fern had occupied last summer. Yep, it was asparagus fern alright. Hmmmm……I thought asparagus fern was an annual in any zone that receives below-freezing temps in winter? Then, another seedling began to grow quickly and bigley! As the stalk grew and grew, I guessed that it might have been sowed by one of our furry or feathered friends. Yep! It’s the sunflower in the photo above – now with an inch-plus diameter stalk and eleven flowers! Most likely sprouted from a stray black oil sunflower seed that was carried off from the bird/squirrel feeders. The bees and the goldfinches are loving it!
Surprise #4: Another volunteer seedling has appeared. Alongside one of the morning glory seeds I poked down into the soil at the base of the sunflower stalk. After a couple of weeks of watering it, I see that it is a pokeweed plant. No doubt from a seed deposited by a feathered friend. The battle of the dark purple poke berries is not one I want to fight. So, alas, it has to go. I think the bright coral geranium our neighbor gave me will look nice in its place.
I’ll be keeping my eye on my Can of Surprises – as the morning glories twine their way up the teepee I made for them – who knows what other mysteries may unfold?
My Can of Surprises feels like another gentle nudge from Nature.
A “look what we can do” statement.
An invitation to open up to new ways of planting and co-existing and experiencing the miraculous wonder of life and the natural world.
Acres and acres of land and expensive plantings not required.
All of this within the confines of a simple metal garbage can filled with potting mix.
If you want to be inspired and forever-changed in regards to one particular miracle – the life of a bee – please feel free to listen to Colette O’Neill, co-creator of The Bealtaine Cottage Project in the west of Ireland, as she so eloquently relays a very important message.
On a whim, in late April, I sowed half a packet of six-year-old radish seeds. Only a couple of short rows in a raised trough style planter. The packet had been languishing in a basket in the basement, along with many other packets of old seed……seeds purchased with good intentions of getting serious about establishing a viable kitchen garden, but for a variety of reasons never quite getting it accomplished.
I was surprised when many tiny green sprouts began to emerge from the soil! Not only did they grow quickly, but they grew thickly! Expecting a poor germination rate, due to the age of the seed, I had sowed more densely than recommended on the seed packet. Then, seeing their desire to GROW! – once released from their long slumber and feeling the warm soil between their toes – I just couldn’t bring myself to pluck and thin those tiny green bits of life, as was recommended on the seed packet. So…….I’ve been enjoying small harvests of small mild radishes for about 30 days now. (I have since learned that the young seedlings can be enjoyed – roots, sprouts, and leaves – in salads or as a bit of peppery crunch minced on top of crème cheese crostini. I’ll be plucking and thinning my autumn sowing in hopes of harvesting more fully developed ruby red radishes. And, likewise, delighting in experimenting with ways to enjoy the taste and nutritional benefits of the “pluckings”!)
Having been raised up in a family of raw radish eaters, there was never the need to explore other ways to prepare them. My taste and tolerance for raw radish has diminished and so I’ve been experimenting with some new ways to enjoy their peppery goodness. Two of my favorites so far:
Pan Roasted Radishes and New Red Potatoes
Toss radishes and potatoes in a lightly oiled, pre-heated cast iron skillet over medium-high heat for about 2 minutes. Lower heat to medium-low, continue to cook for about 6 – 10 minutes, until radishes and potatoes are just slightly charred & fork-tender, stirring or tumbling occasionally. Add butter, fresh thyme sprigs, and smashed garlic – all to your taste. Increase heat to medium-high again, stirring often, allowing garlic to slightly toast. Remove garlic and thyme stems, season with salt, and serve.
Sauteed Cabbage, Radish & Sausage with Gorgonzola
Generously coat bottom of skillet with olive oil and heat over medium heat. Add cabbage, radish, and sausage slices. Saute, stirring or tossing frequently, until cabbage and radishes are tender. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, stir, remove from heat. Top individual servings with crumbled Gorgonzola and serve warm. Delicious as a left-over meal or side dish – warm or cold. Reserve and refrigerate extra gorgonzola in a separate container from the other ingredients. Add gorgonzola to left-overs just before serving/eating for best flavor and texture.
~ Let us give Thanks ~
For generous friends with hearts as big as hubbards, and smiles as bright as their blossoms;
For feisty friends, as tart as apples;
For continuous friends, who, like scallions & cucumbers, keep reminding us that we’ve had them;
For crotchety friends, as sour as rhubarb and as indestructible;
For funny friends, as silly as brussels sprouts
And serious friends, as complex as cauliflowers and as intricate as onions;
For friends as unpretentious as cabbages
and friends, like parsnips, who can be counted on to see you through the winter;
For old friends, nodding like sunflowers in the evening-time
And young friends coming on as fast as radishes;
For loving friends, who wind around us like tendrils and hold us, despite our blights, wilts, and witherings;
And, finally, for those friends now gone, but who fed us in their times that we might have life thereafter;
For this bounty of friends, we give thanks.
~ Max Coots ~
I have a calligraphy print of this lovely blessing hanging in my hallway.
I often pause to read it and I say “Amen”.
For where would I be without all of my friends?
Two weeks ago there was a Purple Parade of Spring flowers. This week, pink, magenta, fuschia, white, and lots of yellow tree pollen have joined in the celebration.
Weaving in and out, and fluttering all about are the pollinators – always a pure joy to see. The first hummingbird was sighted a few days ago – visiting the nectar feeder, the pansies, and the azalea. He or she drank deeply at the feeder, perhaps tired and thirsty from the long migration journey. Bumble, Carpenter, Solitary, and Honey bees have been busily working alongside me in the garden – I am thankful for the early flowering plants and trees that tide them over until the massive April flowering happens. A few early Swallowtail butterflies are about as well.
Interestingly, the tiny lavender flowers of the Ground Ivy (Creeping Charlie) seem to be everyone’s favorite. The Ground Ivy has been flowering for about 30 days now, and as one of the earliest nectar sources, it is popular because there are few other native flowering plants in abundance in mid to late March. But, even now, with an abundance of trees and plants in blossom, the humming and buzzing of the bees is most audible at the Ground Ivy. How can I call it a weed when it feeds so many crucial contributors to an abundant environment? After pulling up armloads of it from under and around our raised garden troughs, and being aware that I was a bit unpopular for doing so (🐝🐝🐝), we’ll wait until the flowers have faded before mowing the Creeping Charlie carpet along the ditchline, the woodsy edges, and around the Muscadine arbor. “Anything I can do to help” – my personal Mantra – my promise to Mother Earth.
Spicebush Swallowtail (I think) feeding on nectar of lavender Ground Ivy flowers. My camera was having a hard time finding focus, most likely because the butterfly was fluttering his wings constantly. But I love the colors in the photo, and it almost seems to have a dream-like quality to it.
First grape leaves unfurling.
Montmorency cherry blossom – I would love to have enough cherries to make a cobbler this year!
Azalea blossoms and new lime green leaves.
(Updated to include exact information for time deadline on comments- 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time, April 15, 2019)
In a previous post on this blog I noted that I originally had no intention of giving any space to topics that aren’t positive, or that don’t have “seeds of goodness” encompassed within. Tiny Seeds of Goodness is my subtitle, after all.
However, in light of current political and monetary power issues and the increased pressure certain current political and governmental actions are putting on the fragile health of our planet and all life on Earth, I feel compelled to post this. My only regret is that I didn’t post this information earlier (as April 15 is the deadline for U.S. citizens to respond to the EPA), and that I haven’t blogged about this issue continually since first hearing about it.
If you live in the southern U.S. the changes that are at risk of being made to our United States Clean Water Act should deeply concern you. If you live in any other part of the United States, these proposed changes should deeply concern you. If you live outside of the United States, which some of my followers and readers do, any threat to clean water should deeply concern you, as water on planet Earth is a universal requirement for life.
This video highlights the proposed changes to the Clean Water Act, as well as the ensuing effects on our environment and water supplies.
If you feel compelled to voice your opinions to the EPA, for their consideration of these changes, the deadline for doing so is 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time April 15, 2019. Written comments can be submitted via the information below, copied from the EPA’s website.
The public is invited to submit written comments, identified by Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OW-2018-0149, to the Federal eRulemaking Portal: https://www.regulations.gov. General guidance on making effective comments is available at EPA’s Commenting on EPA Dockets.
I submitted my comments earlier today. It was the least I could do. They are my “Tiny Seeds of Goodness” for today.
Environmental Protection Agency of the United States of America,
Clean water is a vital RIGHT of all our planet’s inhabitants, not a privilege of the very wealthy and powerful. The Clean Water Act was put in place for a reason – those who should have been doing the RIGHT thing for our planet’s water resources were NOT.
You are the Environmental PROTECTION Agency, and you need to do the job you are tasked with, for ALL American citizens, for the planet we ALL share. You must NOT proceed with the proposed changes to the Clean Water Act. If a business, developer, or industry cannot be profitable without polluting our shared water resources then that business, developer, or industry needs to either find a resource-respectful way to conduct their business or not be in business at all. You must not proceed with the changes to the Clean Water Act as proposed under this docket.
Every part of my family’s life is affected by clean water! Our household is sustained by ground water via a private well. We have a small stream running through our property, alongside our vegetable garden and berry patch, which ultimately feeds in to the Haw River and the municipal water supply for nearby communities in the Piedmont of North Carolina. We have friends and family who reside in those communities. There are organizations and individuals who have been working tirelessly for decades to clean up the Haw River and bring it back to a cleaner waterway, as it has been terribly polluted and degraded by industry and sewage for a hundred years or more. Through hard work and determination, and through regulations and monitoring, the Haw is finally a waterway that can be enjoyed by outdoor enthusiasts, tourists, and communities adjacent to it. Why on Earth would we want to backslide to a time when industry and municipalities could just send their waste and pollutants “away/down river”? There IS NO “away/down river” – all water is connected on this planet!
In addition, the municipal water supply of the Burlington North Carolina Metro area is supplied by surface reservoirs which are fed by a network of small streams and large creeks. Our friends and neighbors just one road away from us are served by this municipal water supply. My husband, our friends, and co-workers drink the municipal water that serves their employer’s places of business. The kids in the schools drink that water. Was Flint Michigan not enough of a travesty for the richest and most powerful country in the world? Are you willing to see that scenario play out time and time again because the PROTECTIONS that you are charged with upholding are not upheld?
Aside from the human water supply impacts, I see first-hand, every day throughout all seasons, how wildlife of all sorts is drawn to the small stream that courses through our property – pollinators, amphibians, hawks, turtles, herons, all types of songbirds and migrating birds, mammals of all sorts. Pollution in small waterways such as this stream has far reaching affects – it does not remain localized to the immediate area.
It is long past the time that large corporations, private citizens, and government agencies with the word “Protection” in their title, use foresight & respect for planet Earth, and do the right thing for all of us, now, and for future generations. I would hope that we can see that decisions made for monetary gain, “the easy way”, and for power/control are not in the long-term best interest of all.
You must not proceed with the proposed changes to the Clean Water Act! Do the right thing! Myself, my family, my friends, the voiceless wildlife and future generations are counting on you!
Musings of an obsessive gardener
Observations about the wondrous world of wildlife
Quilts, potholders and handbags out of recycled clothes and fabric
Food Photography & Recipes
Recipes showing step by step directions with pictures and gadget reviews
Tiny Seeds of Goodness
Colette O'Neill... Environmentalist, Author, Publisher, Photographer. Creator of Goddess Permaculture.
Celebrating food and all the joy that comes from creating and eating it.
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Batik Artist | Farmscapes, Fantasy, Landscapes, Equine
Seeing Life Through Lenses
"May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most dazzling view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds." – Edward Abbey