Sunday, May 28, 2023

Buzzing Beets.

Got a few hours in the Rootcellar Studio this week and was able to finish up this piece I started a couple weeks ago!

Buzzing Beets.
(Acrylic, Watercolor and Ink on 300# Arches Paper)

Time does not teach the honeybee how to dance
Time just allows
Honeybees just dance
Flowers bloom
Times fades
Petals flutter
Time just allows
Time does not teach the honeybee how to dance
Honeybees just dance

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

May Snaps.

 Mays days are fleeting and the suns rays feel stronger by the day. 

The no seeums and biting flies are joining the party as the landscape awakens and the various songbirds migrate their way back into the ecosystem filing the air with their distinct songs and behaviors. A resident skunk appears to be devouring grubs at a rapid pace and hopefully their persistence will ease up any Japanese beetle impact come summer. Cycles of nature have a way of balancing themselves out if we just spend the time to observe rather than react, we can learn so much. We always try to take those reflective moments while performing the monotonous tasks like watering and mulching. The more you see the more you learn and the more time you spend in the garden the more observations and changes are noticed. Noticing is the first step to gaining knowledge from experience.

Watering seedlings is a daily chore that is now requiring more observing and planning as we supplement them with the occasional compost tea and foliar seaweed spray as they anxiously await being transplanted into their forever homes. Along with these feedings we are introducing our cellar dwellers to the golden sun and leaving them out overnight when the temps do not dip under 50... this method is referred to as "hardening off" and strengthens the seedlings resilience in hopes that the transplant process is as stress free as possible.

Mallow is emerging in the native perennial bed along with wild ginger.

Wild Ginger (pictured here next to some lovely cup fungus) has these unique lil ground flowers that attract a type of fly to pollinate it, then it produces a nutrient dense seed that ants love to haul underground propagating it further and allowing it to flourish. I picked this stock up last summer from Edgewood Nursery among many others and all of them have flourished and returned which is always a rewarding feeling of accomplishment!

Along with perennial success we have also been observing lots of native wildlife emerging and flourishing throughout the garden. I spotted 3 different species of frogs in just an hour of garden pick up including this lil Eastern Gray Tree Frog. Hopefully he is enjoying a nightly feast of slugs as we have already been seeing some pressure on a few of our cold hardy seedlings that have been placed in our beds!

And of course Phoebe our resident Eastern Phoebe has finished her nest and spends most of her days roosting on her eggs or hunting bugs in the garden. She has been pretty chill with our shared use of the shed and seeing as we have been coinhabiting our spaces for the last 4-5 years I think she is aware that we are on her side and mean her no harm. 

As May temps warm more cold crops like these Asian greens are getting into the beds.
Here we are planting Tokyo Bekana & Beni Houshi Mizuna!

After a good soaking rain this past weekend... up popped a slew of Pink Lady Slippers!

Along with keeping an eye on our local flora we have also been gently monitoring the bees. Cassi took the reigns on our most recent hive inspection and it appears all our suspicions were correct!
Our queen and her supporting colony have been hard at work after a cold rainy start to the season. As soon as the warmer temps and sunshine appeared for a good stretch we monitored lots of pollen being  collected and pulled the sugar water from the hive.  After this inspection it was clear that the colony was running out of room and we quickly spent a evening constructing a stack of new frames that we added to the hive so they can continue to grow and flourish. 

In my downtime I have been growing out more mushroom spawn and finding time to inoculate logs and substrates, learning more mycological skills as time allows. Above you can see some sawdust spawn of shiitake (miss happiness strain) as I inoculate a red maple trunk I chopped down a few weeks prior. I got 5 logs done this evening and have 15 more to go when I find the time.

Speaking of timing... as we approach the end of May and our zones last frost date. We begin preparing for a prolific memorial day weekend by getting the last of our garden planted with tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and of course a slew of flower starts along with our dahlia tubers and ranunculus that have been pre-sprouting in our windowsill. 

Once we free up the grow light space and the window sill it will be time to start round two of seeds so that our cut flower options and salad green supply will be steady throughout the growing season!

Till then, happy planting, sowing and observing!

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

Fruiting Transplants and Spring Flowers.

Catch up post!

As I mentioned previously, its been a busy spring season here at the homestead with any windows of time always being focused on getting cold hardy crops in the ground, nursing perennials, mulching beds, spreading & flipping compost, starting seeds, prepping tubers, checking in on bees, inoculating fungi and garden planning!

I figured now being on the cusp of our last frost date, that it was a good time to get caught up on a couple of our new additions as well as update the progress of all those fall bulbs we got planted.

If you recall from a previous post, we got some fruit trees! After repotting our grafts from last year and playing in the compost and woodchip piles, a dinner time conversation lead to a trip to our local nursery where the entire family came to a consensus on 2 apple trees and 2 pear trees to start our orchard journey with!

After debating the best placement for a week we caught a window to start digging after a week of steady rain with another week of steady rain predicted. Perfect planting weather!

Tree planting mixture of leaf mold, decomposing wood chips and rich compost!

Digging the holes was tough going as our location is on a granite shelf which results in many boulders to unearth as well as a good bit of tree root structure left behind from our fallen maple
 from a few years ago.

Luckily I had quite the crew of determined ladies to prep a nice crater for each tree!

Hazel enjoyed making the most of the new space and channeled her inner chipmunk as she repurposed rock piles into rock and fossil piles.

Each tree got a mixture of a few wheelbarrows of the compost/woodchip mix along with a few scoops of organic tree-tone (6-3-2) that will slow release over the first growing season to help the trees acclimate to life on the homestead.

Fruit Trees Planted!
Apples- (Roxbury Russet & Macoun)
Pears- (Red Bartlett & Shinseiki)

As we finished up the fruit trees our first tulips started opening....

Everyday for a week or two it seemed something new opened up to invite us to explore the garden and observe its beauty!

Flowers have been a hot topic at the dinner table as of late and we have lots of fun new varieties starting in the cellar and we are also taking a leap into the world of ranunculus and dahlias with several trays of tubers and corms currently sprouting on our windowsill and a whole bed set aside for them this year that we have been slowly dressing with compost and monitoring the temp of the soil in anticipation of getting them in the ground as soon as possible.

I have really been enjoying the tulip variations popping up and we talked about next year going all in with tulip bulbs and using the newly dedicated flower bed in rotation with the tulips before dahlias.

Along with upping our tulip game, I am also enjoying the array of daffodils popping up here and there and look forward to incorporating more varieties spread throughout the homestead. High on the list is the pheasant eye daffys! Love the way they contrast with the mountain flox by the stone wall too!

Always excited to see the garden beauty sneaking its way onto our dinner plates and into the homescape too!

Early morning fungus eruption.

Some cold hardy veggies are making their way into the beds. Here we have our peas emerging with our first round of lettuce, some fennel and just out of the picture is a bit of bok choy. 
Our garlic in the background seems to be swelling with optimism for this growing season!

Macoun Apple Blossom

Tripartite Sweat Bees, an overlooked native pollinator that has been hard at work in our shinseiki tree!

Till next time.

Sunday, May 14, 2023

Biodynamics on the Homestead.


You may be unfamiliar with this term or the reason why I found it intriguing enough to take the plunge. It is a slightly long and convoluted path that I have had through the years of investigating different holistic and intuitive gardening practices from around the globe. At its core its a philosophy of growing that was developed by Rudolph Steiner in the 1920's when he was coaxed by a group of concerned farmers who saw the future of farming being on the path of disconnecting from the land and from the natural cycles of nature. Steiner responded by offering a series of lectures evolving around ecological and sustainable approaches to farming and later these lectures where compiled into a book that is simply called Agriculture.

The basic concepts behind this book became the foundations of Biodynamics. The ideals of biodynamics revolves around a basic principle that we personally have always felt important here at the homestead, that principle ideal is treating the entire homestead/farm as a whole organism. Closing the loop of outside inputs and looking at the ecosystem in which your space inhabits as a symbiotic relationship. Similar to my previous posts about the importance of creating our own compost on the homestead and working with the indigenous mycorrhiza and microbial systems that we inhabit and coexist with. Along with supporting these natural systems there is also a more spiritual space that is given within the biodynamic process that incorporates a calendar of suggested windows for optimal times to sow seeds, weed and harvest the best tasting and best storing produce possible. These suggested calendar dates are all aligned with positions of  the moon and the planets. Some call this thinking witchcraft and woo woo, and to an extent I engage in these practices with great optimism and a good dose of skepticism as well. Though as I have followed some of the suggested calendar timing in past seasons I decided this year with the final beds situated, that it was a good time to give some of the amendment practices a try. 

I mean if the power of the moon has such a undeniable major influence on the oceans, why would we think that similar changes are not happening in our mineral dense soils and plant life as well as all flora and fauna on this planet. 

Anyhow, again I am not an expert but simply a curious gardener who decided this season it was time to start working with some of the basic concepts and principles behind biodynamics as well as beginning to dabble more in creating our own plant amendments and extracts. More on those in future posts but for now I'll get to explaining the beginning steps in our biodynamic journey here at the LocalRootz Homestead!

We first did some research on where to source our preparations, luckily we found a farm who has been involved in biodynamics for nearly 2 decades and offered a thorough explanation of the processes and was as close to home as we could find. Biodynamic Solutions  out of Peterborough, NH seemed like a great choice. In fact the southern New Hampshire area around Mount Monadnock is quite the hot bed for biodynamic resources and there is a rich history to the practices and information being shared in that region so I felt pretty confident that I would be getting as much of the woo woo as we could from their preparation kit!

The foundations of all biodynamic preparations starts with the BD 500 simply called the horn manure. It's a microbe rich package of manure that has been stuffed into a cows horn in the autumn and buried over the winter. In the spring the horn is dug up and the prep is ready for applying. More on that in a minute. Along with the BD 500 is the Compound preparation which is also added to the spring application spray and I also added a sprinkle into our seed starting soil to kickstart the microbes to better synthesize the transition from cellar (where we start our seedlings) to garden! 

Along with those preparation, the starter kit also includes these preparations that all have their own unique steps to prepare.

BD 501 Silica 
(not pictured as its sitting in the sunny window waiting for summer to disperse)
BD502 Yarrow
BD503 Chamomile
BD504 Stinging Nettles
BD505 Oak Bark
BD506 Dandelion
BD507 Valerian
BD508 Horsetail

Each preparation has its own steps to apply, I will not go into each one in depth but will finish this post with some great resources to check if you are so intrigued! 

The first treatment of the season besides the small amount added to our seed starting mix is preparing the BD500 for application. It starts with a 5 gallon bucket for the size of our homestead. I'd prefer to use ceramic or wood but for a 5 gallon size all we had on hand was this plastic bucket. However it has been housing our hardwood charcoal for a year and I also have used it to ferment some compost tea the last few seasons so its well purified of its gases and has better vibes than a orange home depot bucket... its all about aesthetics, but needless to say a few more used wooden barrels are on the "wants" list for applications like this and more! Anyhow back to the BD500 prep. We filled the bucket with a mixture of rainwater and some of our well water. From there you add the entire packet of BD500 (Horn Manure) then you stir and stir and stir. 

Stirring helps oxygenate all those beneficial microbes and gets them kickstarted before applying. It takes a full hour of constant stirring, at times I felt like my arm was gonna fall off and then I sunk into a rhythm about 15 minutes into it as I absorbed a wonderful podcast about caring for an orchard holistically by the late great Michael Phillips. 

After 40 minutes, it was time to add the compound preparation to the mix for the final
20 minutes of stirring. The best method is to vigorously stir the prep until a vortex forms as deep as possible and when the vortex is achieved you reverse direction to create a cross currant resulting in a bubbling oxygenated prep!

After the hour was complete I checked the solution with a glass jar for color and sediment. 
I then loaded up our pump sprayer with part of the solution that I used to spray our new fruit tree additions as well as a few other special spots I wanted to make sure got ample coverage with the fine spray. 

After that I took to the classic method of making a aspergillum out of white pine boughs.

From there I proceeded to disperse the remaining preparation across the homestead with this traditional method. Like a priest with their holy water... I blessed the landscape with good intentions and meditated upon the beauty of the land and the partnership we as a family have engaged in here at the homestead! 

As we move forward I will talk more about amendments that we have been using and making in the garden. I have been starting to create some Cider Vinegar extractions as well as various plant juices and foliar sprays. Interested in learning more about biodynamics? 

Check Out These Great Resources:




Thanks for stopping by as always and in closing I will leave you with a new piece I got underway in the Rootcellar Studio... maybe I'll have it finished for our next post as all our homestead projects have been happening faster than I can find time to type about... mushrooms and fruit trees as well as seeds being planted, trellises made and compost always churning!

Bee Well! 

Sunday, May 7, 2023

the Perennial Morals of the Morel.

Rainy days have been abundant with the occasional sunset peeking through the persistent cloud cover. The perennials are soaking up the moisture and gradually emerging from their winter slumber just waiting for its old friend sunshine to warm its tender growth.

Inside the artificial sunshine is managing those seeds who can't bare to be left out in the Maine spring nights just yet... a good daily watering and spritzing has become part of the homestead chores and now that the cotyledons (first seed leaves) are starting to curl back and the true leaves are popping we are starting to supplement the watering with an occasional foliar spray that is a gentle compost tea made with the rich soil that awaits its upcoming planting date.

Turkish Rocket

Lupines alongside some wild alpine strawberries

Pink Ragwort

Each day it seems we observe abundant reminders of the persistent plantings of previous seasons. Perennials such as comfrey, lupines and ragwort pictured above are always welcome sights for the balance of the homestead. These have lots of value to our overall wellness and the biodiversity of the landscape. Native plants attract native pollinators as well as species specific insects which in turn attract certain wildlife such as birds and frogs and other fauna that help with that natural balance of the homestead. So many times we impose ourselves on our landscape and nature has to fight in order to find its place and sometimes that battle is lost and won but in all fights there has to be a winner and loser. We choose to look at our overall impact as a balancing act, a gentle dance where we interweave our personal needs with those of the ecosystem in which we inhabit. Observing the ebb and flow and the patterns and working along with them, even if occasionally that can lead to total crop failure in one variety, it may open the door for another to flourish. Season to season we learn, we observe and we adapt. These are the morals of nature.

Speaking of morals, lets move on to a story about morels.

I scored a trial of these Yellow Morel Mushroom Pegs from Field & Forest,
We choose a shady bank that is near a couple of our apple trees, and intermingled with some oak, maples and rich fungal activity on the homestead. I sectioned off a square block with a fallen birch just to remind me of the project and proceeded to open up the few year blanket of decaying leaves that we are using to encourage the moss blanket to spread and the grass lawn to regress. clearly it was working as most of the grass underneath was brown and decaying but lots of lichen and moss seemed to be thriving. There are many varieties of moss throughout this area along with abundant species of fungi that we have foraged in this area including boletes, amanita, chanterelles and wood ear mushrooms.
So it seemed like a good area to trial these peg spawn that field and forest have had limited success with. Wood loving mushrooms that identify with one host species have much more success in the cultivation world than do these types of mushrooms that seem to draw nutrients from a diverse collaboration of symbiotic species and natural occurrences. One such occurrence that seems to activate the fruiting body of the morel has routinely been fire. Its a foragers secret that forest fire locations are prime hunting grounds for morels and with that knowledge I amended the bed after drilling some pegholes and stuffing them with the mycelium soaked pegs with some fresh firepit ash and a couple inches of decaying woodchips.

The soil here is a mixture of rich decaying matter and some sandy bits so we shall see how this project evolves. 

Another positive of this site location is its right by the walkout cellar, so I walk by it daily. That way if they do start popping up, hopefully I find them before the critters!

Time will tell but considering the cost of the project was around $15... and about a half hour of labor, if it works the moral of the blogpost would be to give it a try!

Seems the all the rain got Phoebe (Eastern Phoebe) thinking outside the box for her nesting site this year... usually she makes her nest on one of our spotlights under our eaves but this year she decided the tool shed was a better idea... upon noticing it right away I tried to deter her by pulling the start of the nest down and putting my tools back in place but she has persisted so I told her I would be careful around her nest as long as she gave me full access without any altercations. I think she understood and generally she has been very accommodating to us coinhabiting her nesting space. They are also voracious insect eaters and have even been known to dine on things like ticks, moths and grasshopers... so we will let her enjoy her nesting site in hopes that the balance and harmony of the homestead persists and flourishes for many more seasons to come.

Till next post, I leave you with this flourishing sample of pixie cup lichen that is blooming on an old stump in the surrounding the garden space.
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