Posted in BLOG, WORKING ARTISTS

Homesteading Artist Problems

Problem #1: ITS EARLY SPRING.  Prepare the gardens for planting.   Summer squash, tomatoes and vibrant annual flowers.  Trimming back climbing ivy.  More time spent outdoors than indoors.  “Mmm.  I’ll have to do art later.  Then I can post it on my blog.”

Problem #2: ITS LATE SPRING.  Roasting peanuts.  Fighting garden slugs and weeds in the garden.  Lots of rain keeps the grass growing.  First family vacation in 7 years.  Visiting our favorite coastal Georgia island.  “Great!  I’ll do some sketches.  They will make great studies for a finished piece.  Then I can post it on my blog.”

Problem #3: ITS SUMMER.  Finding great mark-downs on produce.  Put away several pints of peach preserves.  Harvest 14 quarts of squash.  Blanched and frozen.  Picking horn worms off tomatoes struggling through neglect and scorching summer heat.  Time for planting okra.  “Ahh!  Maybe the garden will inspire me to make art.  Then I can post it on my blog.”  

I know you are still waiting to see all those sketches.

Me too.

Found this short video about artist Clare Carver of Big Table Farm in Gaston, Oregon.   Carver’s work on the farm is what inspires her creations.  Great idea.  Now if I can set aside some time for art…

View more of Carver’s work at Clarecarver.com.

Featured Image credit: Freeimages.com/Witold Barski
Posted in GARDENING, Southernisms

Rosemary and Soil Conditioning

A Repost about early soil conditioning challenges and changes to the front garden featured in the Rosemary Sketch.

Dear Mr. Garden Guy,

Why didn’t you stress the importance of soil conditioning?

When we moved into the new subdivision, its lovely laid lawns and planted shrubbery disguised a horrible truth.  The builders had stripped the land of its top soil and left only hard packed Georgia clay encased in rocks. Lots of rocks.   We had to drench the earth with water, dig down deep, remove a layer of rock.  Then more watering-in, more rock removal until finally we were ready to plant.  And that was just our mail box!

I wanted a flower garden in my front yard.   Could it be done without all this digging into rocks and clay?  I turned to you Mr. Garden Guy.  You said plant an above ground garden.  No digging needed.  Oh yeah I was all on that like white on rice!  Following your instruction, I carefully mapped out the flower bed, smothered the grass under heavy black plastic, and purchased bags of garden soil and rotted cow manure.  I enthusiastically piled layer upon layer of the most beautiful black soil ever!  Yet something seemed so WRONG about buying soil in an area known for its rich agriculture heritage.  That’s like living on an island and having to buy sand.  Sigh.   Nevertheless I was ready to plant.

It was then that you reminded me that plants are much like people – some like the sun, others prefer shade, some like to drink, others are teetotalers.  Armed with this knowledge, I joyfully set about planting a flower garden that became my pride and joy.

IMG_0831
Thriving flower garden before soil depletion.  

But Mr. Garden Guy you didn’t tell me about caring for my soil’s needs.  As the years went by my perennials stopped thriving and my annuals weren’t lasting even a season.  Money was wasted buying more plants.  They simply died.  Even applying liquid fertilizer seemed futile.  Like a botanical sugar rush, it gave the plants a brief growth spurt.  But then nothing.  Stunted plants and devouring insects dotted my once lovely garden.  I worried: Could I be losing my “green thumb?”

One day I stooped down for a closer look.  Brushing away the mulch, I grabbed a handful of soil.   It was no longer the richly black, heavy soil I had laid.  Rather it had become an ashy grey, lifeless heap of dirt.  My soil was dead!  Augh!

I ran crying to you Mr. Garden Guy.  You explained that the plants got their nutrients from the soil.  But since I never “fed” the soil, it could no longer “feed” the plants.  My soil wasn’t dead.  It was simply malnourished.

I cleaned out the garden and began feeding the soil.  I fed it shovels-full of fresh top soil.  I fed it nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus.

eggs-3-1616608
Freeimages.com/Lizewiek

I fed it wood ash, used coffee grinds, diced banana peels and crushed eggshells.  I fed it earthworms.  Throughout the fall and winter, neighbors smiled nervously as they watch me till, turn and dig into the mound of dirt.  I didn’t care.  I was determined to nurse that depleted dirt back to life.   By spring planting,  the harmful insects who thrived in the once nutrient-starved soil were all but gone.  And when I saw a tiny black ant making its way home with a slither of eggshell, I smiled.  The soil was coming back to life again!

More changes were in store for this flower bed.  I will share in a future “letter.”

Author’s Note: After the soil was properly amended, I began successfully growing vegetables among the flowers.  The rosemary took over half the bed!

Posted in GARDENING, Southernisms

Fire Blight Blues

Dear Mr. Garden Guy,

Why didn’t you warn me about lost on the modern homestead?  Sure you often offered advice to prevent untimely death on the small hobby farm.  Backyard chickens? You said expect to lose a few to a predator like a fox or hawk.  Goats?  You warned about roaming dog packs and keeping homestead animals safe.

However, I have no livestock, unless I count the deer and squirrels.  But those critters are on their own.  I already learned that lesson.  Remember my first post?  So I didn’t expect to grieve a loss on the homestead.  I only have a couple of small vegetable gardens and one lovely fruit tree.  A wonderfully producing Bartlett Pear.  That is, I did have one until I got the Fire Blight Blues.

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Of course I read your warning about Fire Blight in Georgia.

“Fire blight makes growing edible pear trees in Georgia difficult.”  You said.

“Nonsense!” I scoffed. My stepdad had an edible pear tree that the neighborhood kids used to climb the garden fence to get to.

“Stop exaggerating!”  I rolled my eyes at you.  We have a Bartlett Pear.  For years we’ve enjoyed fresh eating, preserves, jams and canned pears from its production.  Because of its abundance, I’ve given away bags of its fruit to neighbors and friends.

Wait.  Did you say growing edible pear trees in Georgia is difficult not impossible?  Oh.  My bad.  You were so right Mr. Garden Guy.

I’m afraid I’m losing my pear tree.  I’ve followed your advice to prune back diseased limbs, dipping pruners repeatedly in chlorine solution.  I’ve attempted to spray homemade fungicide onto my tree.  But alas you say even this is “not practical for home gardeners to spray larger trees to be able to get good coverage.”

I’ve got the Fire Blight Blues.  Are the good times really gone  Mr. Garden Guy?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in GARDENING, Southernisms

Soil Conditioning

Dear Mr. Garden Guy,

Why didn’t you stress the importance of soil conditioning?

When we moved into the new subdivision, its lovely laid lawns and planted shrubbery disguised a horrible truth.  The builders had stripped the land of its top soil and left only hard packed Georgia clay encased in rocks. Lots of rocks.   We had to drench the earth with water, dig down deep, remove a layer of rock.  Then more watering-in, more rock removal until finally we were ready to plant.  And that was just our mail box!

I wanted a flower garden in my front yard.   Could it be done without all this digging into rocks and clay?  I turned to you Mr. Garden Guy.  You said plant an above ground garden.  No digging needed.  Oh yeah I was all on that like white on rice!  Following your instruction, I carefully mapped out the flower bed, smothered the grass under heavy black plastic, and purchased bags of garden soil and rotted cow manure.  I enthusiastically piled layer upon layer of the most beautiful black soil ever!  Yet something seemed so WRONG about buying soil in an area known for its rich agriculture heritage.  That’s like living on an island and having to buy sand.  Sigh.   Nevertheless I was ready to plant.

It was then that you reminded me that plants are much like people – some like the sun, others prefer shade, some like to drink, others are teetotalers.  Armed with this knowledge, I joyfully set about planting a flower garden that became my pride and joy.

IMG_0831
My thriving flower garden, before soil depletion.

But Mr. Garden Guy you didn’t tell me about caring for my soil’s needs.  As the years went by my perennials stopped thriving and my annuals weren’t lasting even a season.  Money was wasted buying more plants.  They simply died.  Even applying liquid fertilizer seemed futile.  Like a botanical sugar rush, it gave the plants a brief growth spurt.  But then nothing.  Stunted plants and devouring insects dotted my once lovely garden.  I worried: Could I be losing my “green thumb?”

One day I stooped down for a closer look.  Brushing away the mulch, I grabbed a handful of soil.   It was no longer the richly black, heavy soil I had laid.  Rather it had become an ashy grey, lifeless heap of dirt.  My soil was dead!  Augh!

I ran crying to you Mr. Garden Guy.  You explained that the plants got their nutrients from the soil.  But since I never “fed” the soil, it could no longer “feed” the plants.  My soil wasn’t dead.  It was simply malnourished.

I cleaned out the garden and began feeding the soil.  I fed it shovels-full of fresh top soil.  I fed it nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus.

eggs-3-1616608
FreeImages.com/Lizewiek

I fed it wood ash, used coffee grinds, diced banana peels and crushed eggshells.  I fed it earthworms.  Throughout the fall and winter, neighbors smiled nervously as they watch me till, turn and dig into the mound of dirt.  I didn’t care.  I was determined to nurse that depleted dirt back to life.   By spring planting,  the harmful insects who thrived in the once nutrient-starved soil were all but gone.  And when I saw a tiny black ant making its way home with a slither of eggshell, I smiled.  The soil was coming back to life again!

More changes were in store for this flower bed.  I will share in a future “letter.”