Thursday, April 29, 2010

Woodland Walk at Emergence Farm

I spent this morning walking through the woods at Emergence Farm in southern Lebanon County. Sisters, Tina Sams & Maryanne Schwartz, of the Essential Herbal magazine & I had been asked to come & identify woodland plants for the owner. It's a beautiful forest, full of wonderful plants. Here are a few photos of some of what we saw.

This is wild Yarrow. It's the first photo I took, though not the first plant we saw. In fact, we didn't get all of the way up the driveway before Tina started yelling to be let out of the car! She'd spotted a swath of Ramps, which are a wild leek.

We saw thousands of Violet Odorata, the narrow leaved sweet purple violet and somehow I didn't take a picture of those. This is a lovely yellow violet.

And the delicate Spring Beauty.

Most of the May Apples we saw were finished flowering, but this one was still in full bloom.

We saw lots of Jack-in-the-Pulpit, ranging in colour from almost black to almost white. Gorgeous.

Bloodroot. We didn't see any in flower, since it's late spring, but still lots of the leaves.

A lovely fairy portal.

Morel mushroom!

And a Lady Slipper in bloom!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Radical Urban Sustainability class

Radical Urban Sustainability:
Theories and Techniques for Transforming Our City

A two-evening course with Wilson Alvarez
Thursdays, May 13th & 20th, 2010 6:30pm-8:45pm
Cost: Sliding scale of $35-$50

Picture this: Lancaster is completely surrounded by a twenty-foot wall. There is no way to go over it, under it or around it, no food or resources coming in or going out. What skills would we need to obtain the food, water and other materials required to sustain life? How could we create a system that would be truly sustainable without any input from the outside world?

Join us for this 2-part course as we explore cutting-edge theories and techniques that can be used to create a truly self-renewing system, right here within the city and inside our homes.

Topics include:

Week 1:
May 13th
Sustainability Theory:
Systems thinking
Stone age economics/nature awareness
Voluntary simplicity

Forest gardening
Small scale intensive agriculture
Mushroom cultivation
Home-scale fish production

Landscape Decontamination:
Bio-char production

Week 2:
May 20th
Appropriate Technology:
Human Powered Machines
Composting Toilets
Rocket Stoves
Low Impact Home Designs

Watershed Rehabilitation
Grey-water systems
Rainwater Catchment

Class will be held at Radiance, 9 W Grant St, Lancaster, PA 17603
Call 717-290-1517, or stop by to register

Wilson Alvarez is co-owner of Homegrown Edible Landscaping Co. with his wife Natasha. He has a background in history and anthropology and has spent the last seven years studying the local ecosystem and sustainable living techniques. Homegrown is a human-powered business and is based in Lancaster City.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Memorial Garden in Salem, MA

Earlier this week, we were in Salem, MA, and visited the memorial garden which was dedicated in 1992, 300 years since the witch trials there. I hadn't known before that Elie Weisel was part of the dedication ceremony. The small, solemn garden is along the outside wall of the old cemetery. This is symbolically important since none of those hanged were allowed to be buryed in the town graveyard. We visited the garden because one of the women hanged is my 13-greats grandmother, Rebecca Nurse. Below is a close-up of the etching on the stone bench with her name.
On the morning before visiting Salem, I was sitting in a hotel lobby in Stonington knitting. A woman came over to join me with her own knitting & we had a lovely chat. Eventually, we talked about where our travels were taking us, and we discovered that we were related through Rebecca Nurse. A gift from the Universe...

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Plant-dyed Clothing

I love setting up the dyepot in the back room at my shop. I can't do it in the winter because I have to be able to prop the door open all day for ventilation. So, in early spring, as soon as I can open that door, I set up the pots and play. Last week I dyed with Logwood bark chips, which give a lovely purple color, and with Safflower petals, which give a rich gold with orange and pink undertones. I dyed some sundresses and some silk camisoles, as well as a couple of silk sarongs. Come into the shop & see them before they all go to new homes! Rayon Ribbon-strap Dress or Hand-dyed pure silk camisole

I'm hoping to find time to set up a dye pot with Tansy later this week, and should get some soft greens. Hoping for good weather...

Monday, April 12, 2010

Recognize This?

I took this photo this afternoon from my balcony. There's a beautiful old White Oak tree which gives wonderful shade in summer, houses numerous critters, and startles me with its stately skeleton all Winter. It also drops copious amounts of pollen each Spring. Those tassels in the photo? Oak pollen. It falls so thickly that it has to be raked up. I'm not kidding. Inches thick. And it breaks down so slowly that it isn't practical to put it in my compost. BAGS of it go to the municipal composting facility.

The bright gold dust has begun to fall...

Monday, April 5, 2010

Nettles for Breakfast

Nettles are one of my favorite food herbs, and I look forward to being able to eat them early each Spring. This morning was the first time I cooked with them this year, sauteing them & incorporating them into scrambled eggs. Last week I did have some Nettle soup & Nettle souffle, but someone else cooked those.

For many years, I had to go to wild places to harvest the Nettles. I didn't want to transplant them into my garden, but I really did long for them to grow there. Finally, about three years ago, they came! Two little patches in a nice out-of-the-way place beside the house. I was ecstatic! Then last year, she decided to add another little patch of herself right at the edge of the patio. Hmmm. A more challenging position. Still, I've decided to leave her there. I usually try to allow the wild plants that grow in the garden to choose their own positions - after all, they know where they'll be happiest. So, Nettle beside the patio? That will be an ongoing exercise in being fully present and attentive, won't it?

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Chestnut Unfurling

The Chestnut at the edge of the labyrinth started to unfurl its leaves this morning! It's a little taller than I am this year, so nearly 6 feet, and almost 10 years old. The nursemaid Oak behind it is about 200 years old. Chestnuts used to be one of the primary trees in this area, but the blight killed nearly all of them. Foresters tell us that the root webs are still living and every so often will send up a new tree to see if it's safe yet. This is one of those trees. It's an honor to watch it grow. If you visit my garden, be sure to find it.

You can find lots of information about the native Chestnuts at the American Chestnut Foundation,