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  • Growing

    Spring                                                              Bee Hiving Moon

    Put in my seed order to seed savers yesterday.  This is the first year in a few that I’ve not started any plants.  We moved the hydroponics cart into the garage to gain room for consolidation of all our dog crates in the kitchen.  Not sure whether we’ll use it this winter or not.  Maybe.  But this year, we’re planting seeds or buying transplants.

    I ordered 8 tomato plants and 6 pepper plants from seed savers.  I still need to pick up onion sets, leek transplants and kale, probably tomorrow at Mother Earth Gardens at Lyndale and 42nd.  Our potatoes will come from seed savers, too.

    We’ve got raspberries, strawberries, apples, pears, plums, cherries, blueberries, currants, wild grapes and asparagus that are perennials, plus the overwintered garlic and some onions.  Even so, I’m glad we don’t have to survive off of our produce.  Gardening would be real work then, a chore.

    Instead, our garden sustains us spiritually, maintaining that constant and close connection to the seasons, to the vegetative world, to the soil.  It also provides food throughout the winter and we’ve chosen to emphasize that aspect of our garden by planting vegetables that we can put up.

    Plus the bees.

  • Anco Impari (I’m Still Learning. Goya)

    Beltane                                                                 Waning Last Frost Moon

    We continue sliding toward summer, a cool, moist descent, not at all like the sudden, blazing ascension we often see, usually full on in place by now, with sun screen and hats and pitchers of lemonade set out on patios.  At some point it will warm up, at least I think it will.  There have been years without summer, years when the weather remains much like what we have now, days cool in the morning, warming in the afternoon and falling off to cool nights.  Could be this will be one of those summers.

    I’ve worked this morning on Pentheus, the first few verses proving difficult for me, almost as if I’d entered a different text altogether though it’s only 300 verses away from Diana and Actaeon and in the same Book, III of XV.

    Something captivates me as I get into the Latin flow, the world tunes out; the text and I begin this tug of war, me digging, using dictionaries and online aids, the text resisting, remaining stubborn, not allowing its meaning to emerge without a struggle.  The tension between the text and me lies in the language of an ancient people and my learning, a tension requiring both, learning and the language.  Without some knowledge, there would be no tension.  If I had no learning, the words in Latin would sit immutable as stone, as strong a barrier to me.  If my learning were to the level of fluency, the text would not be a barrier at all, I would read as I do in English.  Instead, I’m in a middle place, knowing and learning at the same time, so the text became enticing, pulling me further into the journey, not only of Ovid’s texts, but of the others:  Cicero, Caesar, Livy, Martial, Tacitus, Horace, Seneca.

    The feeling reminds me of how I reacted to serious study of art history.  At first there was so much information, so many different aspects that I felt overwhelmed, as if I could never get my head above the surface of this great ocean of learning.  As time passed, as I walked the halls of the museum, read texts and looked at more and more art, a shaky gestalt began to form.  There was a rough chronology, even a global chronology.  There were styles and forms and methods and instances of all three.  At some point the Song Dynasty became separate from the Tang and the Han, just as the early Buddha images became distinct from the later ones of Tibet, Thailand, China.  Neoclassicism and impressionism began to tease themselves apart and appear as separate, thought related movements.  Beckman and Kandinsky and Monet and Barye and Poussin and Church and the master of the embroidered foliage sorted out into times and influences and basic tenets.

    (of course, like most of us, I’m a combination of autodidact and schooling, but since college, the autodidact part has definitely taken precedence.)

    Now I have a scaffolding on which I can hang new learning, it fits in a large gestalt, which, while far from comprehensive, at least describes the outlines, the places where there are gaps and the places where some new learning easily fits.

    Right now Ovid and his Metamorphoses are my teachers, aided by my tutor Greg Mambres and my own reading, learning.  My scaffolding is up, but it’s very shaky.  I have verb forms, conjugations, nouns, declensions, adverbs, participles, clauses, imperatives, word meanings, poetic forms but often I revisit and revisit the same learning, still not seeing with clarity where on the scaffold something belongs.

    It was the same with the garden, first flowers and then vegetables and is still now with the bees.  Large tracts of unknowing papered over by fragments of knowledge.  In bee-keeping for example I look at cells.  Hmmm. Those look like drone cells but maybe they’re queen cells.  Or maybe not.  Is it time to put on the second hive box?  Or, is it too early?  Should I use full-sized hive boxes or should I switch to honey supers to keep things lighter?  In gardening.  Just try planting garlic in the spring some year.  Won’t work.  It needs to over winter for a late June harvest.  Want a colorful spring and early summer?  Plant in the fall.  In the orchard I’m practicing IPM, integrated pest management, which means at this point, killing bugs by hand.

    What I’ve learned is that knowledge accumulates.  New knowledge needs a scaffolding, a chest of drawers, a memory palace so that it can become integrated.

  • A Sunshiny Day

    Beltane                                                                       Waning Last Frost Moon

    Weeding, thinning in the vegetable beds.  A soothing practice, sprucing up the rows of beets, carrots, spinach and taking young weeds out now, before they get big.  When I first went outside this morning, in a sweatshirt, I had to go back inside and put on a light jacket.  A friend told me yesterday that an acquaintance, in the BWCA on vacation, woke up to a frozen pond near their campsite.  Minnesota.  A day with sunny skies and cool temps makes gardening a joy.

    Buddy Mark Odegard has a new knee.  Here’s to his recovery and regaining the full use of his leg.

    Brother Mark has a lot of things to ponder right now.  He’s considering what might be his next move and he has a good number of options.  Making this a bit more difficult is a feeling he has, “I feel like a refugee in my own country.”  He’s been gone 22 years and the contrasting cultural mores of Southeast Asia, especially Thailand, make him a stranger in his own, native land.  A peculiar, rather poignant experience.

    When asked what the cues were, he said, “English speaking everywhere.  All the white people.  Americans are more direct, more in your face.”  Wonder if he meant me?  Could be.

    Can you believe Memorial Day weekend has arrived?  Things are buzzing back in Speedway, Indiana where the 500 will run for the 100th time.  I haven’t kept up this year though a quick review of the 33 cars shows 4 women in the race including one qualified ahead of Danica Patrick.  When a woman wins the Indy 500, it will be a huge moment in motor sports.

    By now in Indiana I would have known the results of time trials, the strategies for the new cars, the old faces and the rookies, new moves for pit crews.  Indy drivers get interviewed on TV and newspapers have separate pages devoted to the race information.  Whether you attend or not, and most don’t, the 500 takes over Indiana life for the month of May.  The May classic.  And it’s back for the 100th time.

  • A Garden, Some Latin, Ai Weiwei

    Beltane                                                     New Last Frost Moon

    The potatoes are in the ground.  The lettuce has two leaves, as does the spinach, a few beets have emerged.  The leeks look a bit droopy, but they’ll pick up.  The garlic is well over 6 inches now as it makes the final push for harvest in late June, early July.  None of the carrots have germinated yet and most of the beets have not either. The onion sets we planted havecropped-free-ai-weiwei mostly begun to show green.  The bees show up now around the property, working as we do, tending the plants in their own, intimate way.  The gooseberries we transplanted look very healthy.  The daffodils are a carpet of yellow and white.  A few scylla out front brighten up the walk with their blue.

    Most of today went into Diana and Actaeon.  I’m down to verse 227, the finish line is 250.  I’m close and moving faster now than I was.  One of the things I’ve learned is that doing this at a pace which would allow you to complete a project in a reasonable time frame would require real skill.  I’m a hobby Ovidist, to be a Latin scholar would take decades.  Who knows though?  I might make it.  When I finish this first tale in the Metamorphosis, I’m going to have some kind of celebration.

    Buddy Mark Odegard has come up with three remarkable designs for a Free Ai Weiwei t-shirt.   Here’s an example and the one most seem to prefer:

  • The Early Growing Season

    Spring ( it even looks like spring today!)                             Waning Bee Hiving Moon

    This morning or early this afternoon I pull the grass out of the entrance reducers and the bees will be free to navigate from their new home.  Tomorrow I’ll check on the hive to see if the bees have remained focused in the middle of the hive box.  Otherwise the newbees have the run of the grounds and the air around here.  From now through fall we’ll be engaged in a delicate dance, first to prevent swarming, then to encourage adequate honey supplies for winter, then, if possible, production of surplus honey for sale.

    One colony will receive the traditional treatment with three hive boxes, reversed and prepared for winter.   The other two get another hive box and after that, supers.  I’m trying to gauge how much sense it makes to struggle with overwintering since the odds seem stacked against it.

    Veggies go in the ground, today, too, seeds and a few transplants–leeks, in particular.  Yesterday I moved the tomato seedlings to larger pots.  The seed potatoes are in a kitchen window, eyes beginning to bulge.  On Tuesday or Wednesday, I’ll cut the potatoes into chunks, each with an eye, then wait a day or two for a callous to form.  After that, in they go.

    At that point the bees will be in their first week, all the vegetables with the exception of the post-frost plantings will be in the ground and the garden will have assumed its early growing season form.  At some point, too, I have to get out and work in the flower beds, the gardening that used to occupy all my efforts.  Now the perennial beds are established and I understand the patterns and problems they have.  Flowers are not as labor intensive as vegetables.

  • Daffodils Are Up. The Bees Are Coming. Growing Season Is Underway.

    Spring                                              Waning Bee Hiving Moon

    Tomorrow afternoon is the day the bee’s come to their new home.  They will have traveled by truck from Chico, California, spent a night at Jim’s Nature’s Nectar and will leave Stillwater for Andover around 2:00 pm.  Back home here at Artemis Honey they will go into their colonies, one per package, a tuft of grass tucked in the entrance reducer for the first 12 hours to keep everybody home the first night.  Sounds like 3 folks will come for the festivities.

    Today is the first Latin day in three weeks.  I’ve had an unusually full period that eliminated the full day slots I like to use for translating Ovid. I find I have to get into a flow with it which takes some time.

    In addition to bee hiving I have vegetables to plant this week, too.  Succession planting plus new veggies, cool weather veggies like peas and carrots.  My potatoes came two days ago.  They’re on a cookie pan while the eyes grow a bit more before I cut them up and plant them, probably late next week.

    Mark will have been here two weeks tomorrow.  He takes long walks here in Andover, goes into the city with me when I won’t be long and takes walks in the city.  Still calming down after a tough period.

    On to Diana and Actaeon.  I’m getting there with this story.  When I finish my first pass on the translation, mostly literal (which is not easy for me), then I’ll take on the next, equally difficult challenge, putting my translation into idiomatic English.  Prose, most likely.  Translating it as poetry feels like a different, more complex process, one I’m not ready to take on right now.

    Also, Grandson Gabe’s 3rd birthday.

  • Moving From the Theoretical to the Concrete

    Lughnasa                                            Waxing Back to School Moon

    Kate has had a nasty cold since Monday and I can feel it trying to claw its way up my esophagus, making my throat scratchy.  My hope is that the recent two time bout I had with some bug in July, then August has revved up my immune system.  With rest I can pound this sucker down before it takes hold.

    Starting back on Latin today.  I took part of July, all of August and the last couple of weeks off with the bees and the vegetables and the orchard.  Thought I’d get work done on Ovid, review, but in fact I got very little done.  An old student habit of mine, if it’s not pressing, it’s not getting done.  I’m looking forward to the weekly sessions, building toward enough confidence to tackle Ovid and others on my own.  It’s a project, like the bees, that keeps the gears turning, not giving them a chance to rest.  Best that way.

    A few years back it was the MIA docent training.  Then the move into permaculture and vegetables and fruit.  That one’s still underway as I learn the complicated dance of seasons, cultivars, pests, harvest and storage.  The MIA training, for that matter, only gives you enough legs to get into the books and files yourself, training you to look and think about art, but each tour demands specific self-education on the objects and the purpose of that tour.

    (Minoan Gold Bee pendant from Crete, circa 2000 BC)

    Part of my impatience with the seminary experience is that I’ve moved so deeply into more concrete endeavors.  Art has the object as an anchor, then its history and context.  Latin has words, grammar and literature as well as Roman history.  Vegetables and fruit have real plants, particular plants with needs and products.  The bees have the bees themselves, the colonies, woodenware, hive management, pest control, honey extraction.  This is, probably, the world I was meant to inhabit, but philosophy and the church lead onto another ancientrail, that of the abstract and faraway rather than the particular and the near.  It’s not that I don’t have an affection, even a passion for the theoretical, I do, but I find my life more calm, less stressful when I work with art, with potatoes and garlic, with conjugations and declensions.

    I now have almost three decades of life devoted to the theoretical, the abstract and the political so I bring those skills and that learning to my present engagement with the mundane, but I no longer want to live in those worlds.  They are gardens others can tend better than I can.

  • A Two-Person Garden

    Lughnasa                                    Waning Grandchildren Moon

    Kate and I have shifted our bedtimes and risings to 6:30.  This allows us to get out to work in the garden when it’s still the cool of the day.  This morning Kate continued to restore the original look and feel to the orchard while I finished up the mulch in the front, moved her growing mound of pulled weeds and gathering lettuces and kale for today’s meals.

    There was, too, the matter of the original guild plantings in the orchard.  Guilds complement each other and, in this case, the fruit tree under which they grow.  Over the last two years we’d let the clover go, after a two year effort prior to that eliminating what Paula, owner of Ecological Gardens, called, “…that damn quack.”  The good news:  no quack back.  The bad:  clover all over.  In the process we lost some of the plants in the guilds.  I know what they are now and will replace them over the next couple of weeks.

    It was also weed identification day, so I spent time in the orchard, my “Weeds of the Northeast” in hand, shuffling through the pages trying to find a match.  The ones I could not identify I have concluded for now are plants that have a place.

    We’re now going to work an hour to two in the mornings together.  That should be enough to manage.  I used to be able to care for our perennials in an hour a morning, but our various plots have grown beyond that.  It’s a two person yard now and Kate’s wonderful recovery has added her back to the team.  Yeah!

    Today perennial bulb orders to go in, too.  Over the vegetable and bee years, the ramping up years, I’ve pretty much left the old perennial beds to themselves, only occasionally working them and then  usually when the situation demanded, rather than requested, me.  Now we’re a bit further along with the orchard, the vegetables and the bees and I want to return some attention to the bulbs and perennial flowers that I love.  Bulb planting happens in October when the rest of the garden has died away, so there’s little conflict in time for that chore.

  • Seeing What We Really Have Here

    Summer                                             Waxing Grandchildren Moon

    We are well past midsummer here in the northern latitudes.  The garden’dicentra09s peak bearing season will commence although we have already had blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, currants, garlic, lettuce, greens, onions, parsnips, beets and sugar snap peas.  Ahead of us are tomatoes, green peppers, potatoes, more greens, onions, beets, lettuce, butternut squash, leeks, wild grapes and carrots plus the odd apple.   Our orchard has a ways to go before it matures.  And I have a ways to go before I can care for the fruit trees in the manner to which they need to become accustomed.

    All of which opens up the purpose of this little experiment in permaculture and the tending of perennial flowers and plants.  A long while back I bought three quarter-long horticulture classes from the University of Guelph in London, Ontario.  It took me a while to complete it, maybe a year all told.  The course helped me integrate and deepen what I’d learned by trial and error as I cared for the daffodils, tulips, day-lilies, hosta, croci, roses, trees and shrubs that then constituted our gardens.

    In its salad days (ha, ha) the notion involved a root-cellar and the possibility of at least making it part way off the food grid.  Fewer trips to the grocery store, healthier food, old fashioned preservation.  A mix of back-to-the-land and exurban living on our own little hectare.  Last year the notion began to include bee-keeping.  Now called Artemis Hives.

    As the reality of the size of our raised beds, the likely peak production of the fruits and vegetables possible has become clear to me, I have a more modest though not substantially different goal.  We will eat meals with fresh produce and fruits during the producing part of the growing season.  We will preserve in various ways honey,  grapes, apples, pears, raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, tomatoes, potatoes, onions, garlic, squash, beets, greens and parsnips.  These we will eat during the fallow days that begin as the garden goes into senescence in late August and early September and last through the first lettuce and peas of the next growing season.  We will supplement these with greens grown hydroponically and use the hydroponics to start seeds and create transplants for 2011.

    None of this will remove us in any major way from the store bought food chain.  We will not solve or resolve much of our carbon footprint.  But some.  More than most perhaps, but far too little to claim even a modest victory.  So, should we give up?

    Not at all.  Why?  Well, there is a richer, deeper lesson here than living wholly off our own land.  That lesson, taught again, day by day and week by week, and again, lies in the rhythm of the plants, the bees, the land and the weather.  An old joke from the 50’s asked, “What do you call people who practice the rhythm method?” (Catholics at the time)  Answer:  “Parents.”  The permaculture and perennial flowers here at Seven Oaks is a rhythm method.  What do you call folks who practice this rhythm method?  Pagans.

    Ours is a life that flows in time with the seasonal music of the 45th latitude, the soil on our land, the particularities of the plants we grow, the energy of the bee colonies that work alongside us, the various animal nations that call this place home.  This is the profound lesson of this place.  Seven Oaks is a temple to the movement of heaven and the bees of Artemis Hives are its priestesses.

  • A Garden Morning

    Beltane                                   New Moon (Hungry Ghost)

    The potatoes have mounds around the growing plants and the hilled up earth from their trenches has leveled out.  The bush beans I planted there last week 06-05-10_garden_herb-spiral-670have begun to germinate and I plan to plant more bush beans tomorrow if the weather is ok.

    While checking fruit on our trees, I ended up weeding the blueberries, too.  The clover is exuberant, mostly a happy addition to our orchard, but overwhelming in the blueberry patch.  We do have apples and cherries and currants, but I could find no pears.  Our production will at least double this year, maybe more.  I counted six apples and several, say 8, cherries.  The currants have experienced substantial predation, by birds, I think.

    I mounded earth around the growing leeks, too, to blanch the stems.   The garlic, which grows near the leeks, looked ready to harvest, but when I pulled a few out of the ground, they looked like they had a ways to go.  I hung the five I dug from a bamboo pole in the honey house.

    Kate’s begun weeding and that helps a lot.  Keeping the bees, the vegetables, the orchard and the flowers in good shape requires attending to the plants we have, doing things like mounding the potatoes and the leeks, checking the garlic, watching for disease and insects, taking action if a plant seems to be in distress, replanting if, as in the instance of the carrots, germination is low.  Though weeding is an important, very important maintenance action, it doesn’t involve direct plant care which is what I enjoy.  I’m glad to have Kate back at the weeding.  She’s also our pruner and she has begun to recover our front sidewalk.

    Then it rained.