Friday, April 21, 2017

Interconnected Lives

Neat long rows of vegetables and fruit thriving in the sunshine, that is what I remember. The more I get into gardening for myself, the more I realize I need to let go of the gardens of my youth and our back yard and think of the soil and the harvest. 

I don't need two acres or half a back yard of neat rows of corn, beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, and so on. I need to think out of the ordered rows and plan for next year and years to come as well as this year. I need more flowers mixed in with the hopscotch of gardening. This is called polyculture, putting different plants together to make the best use of harvesting times and placement for shade or full sun.

Plant flowers with the vegetables and forget planting all of one kind of vegetable or fruit together. That is the way insects, pests, and wild animals are kept under control. I'm sure I'll get to the point where I can go out into the tomato patch and pull fat hornworms off the leaves and tomatoes, but not yet. Marigolds in with the tomatoes keep vermins and insects out of the tomatoes. I'll have hanging planters with strawberries and grape tomatoes from the pergola mixed in with a hanging pot of marigolds just in case.  

I will also plant for butterflies and bees. I'm allergic to bees, but if I don't antagonize them they will not sting me and send me running for the Epi-Pen.  Planting flowers to attract butterflies and bees serves two purposes: keeping out pests and attracting pollinators to help the garden grow. Nothing better. To get my natural insect predators there is the added bonus of beauty among the food. I can handle that.  

No need to worry about the other garden pests -- weeds. They have their beneficial side too, especially when you take note of their roots and the kind of weeds that grow. Dandelions have long roots that break up the soil and are necessary for aerating the garden and pointing to areas that need to be watered more. Dandelions seek iron and are full of calcium, potassium, and magnesium. Long tap roots also mean water and necessary minerals are deep underground and being drawn up through the tap roots. Same applies for garden plants. If the roots are thick and deep, drip irritation or watering more often is the answer. Roots that are fine and hair-like also mean the soil is loose and the roots are holding the soil together, compacting it so the water won't run through as if it were sand. 

Thistles are an entirely different problem indicating the soil is too dry. Thistles can also be invasive. Paying attention to where and when thistles grow will give you clues as to what your soil, and hence your garden, need from you. In this case, more water and nitrogen will benefit your plants and eventually you. 

Such intercropping (planting flowers and vegetables together) is beneficial for the yield of the harvest and for the land itself. Some plants grow better together: 

  • Onions with leafy vegetables, followed by green beans and Chinese cabbage or spinach
  • Potatoes with leafy vegetables, followed by green beans and Chinese cabbage or spinach
  • Spring kale with radishes, followed by celery and tomatoes
  • Spring spinach, followed by lima beans and tomatoes
  • Double rows of corn alternated with single rows of peppers
  • A double row of garlic with spinach down the center
  • Strawberries with watermelon
Sunflowers attract birds that feed on cabbage worms, grasshoppers and other small insects, including flea beetles feeding the birds with sunflower seeds and providing perches for the birds to see and attack from the stems to root out their favorite food. Good for you and good for the birds. 

Plant crops together to support each other and to help trap insects and attract beneficial insects and birds. Broccoli, cauliflower, and tomatoes grow well together while lettuce, radicchio, and sorrel. Crowder peas, green beans and peppers are all popular crops to sandwich between rows of corn, providing shade for the smaller plants and filling the space between corn which takes longer to grow. In many hot climates, corn grown along the south side of potatoes provides shade in hot weather, which helps keep the soil cool and moist while the potatoes are making their crop. For instance, corn, pole beans, and squash support each other. The corn supports the bean vines, the squash shades out weeds, and the roots of the different plants get along nicely below ground. 

Like the human body, the plants support each other and feed us. Healthier plants also provide good green manure when dug into the ground at the end of the season and also set up healthier soil for next year, providing higher yields.  Plant salad greens in the spaces between. Rabbits and other small foragers will eat some, but we can afford to share. 

Gardening is not just about food for the table. It lets you know what you need -- more fertilizer, more water, more earthworms, etc. -- and tells you about the health of the soil. Healthier soil means healthier plants and a healthier you. It is all connected just like the mind, body, and soul are all connected in me and you. The land is just as connected as we are to the land. The health of one is crucial to the health of the other and to the world around us. We are all connected and nowhere does that connection show more effectively than in the garden and the land. 

Read books and talk to gardeners from different cultures to find out what works for them and what they have learned. Share your experiences and as for guidance. As you get closer to the land you will find you are getting closer to yourself and to other gardeners. Share the wealth and the knowledge. 

That is all. Disperse. 

Monday, April 17, 2017

Growing Pains

Does a butterfly know that as a caterpillar it will spin a cocoon and emerge as a beautiful butterfly? Probably not. We don't realize as babies struggling with unsteady legs and immature eyes and tongue that we will emerge in command of our legs, eyes, and tongue and become adults, at least not when we open our eyes on this bright and painful place far from the warmth in our floating womb. Even as we struggle through puberty beset with longings and rebellious determination to fly free into a world without restraint and rules do we begin to realize the struggle is not over, merely just beginning as we fumble and strain to find our place in the grand design, constantly struggling to figure out where we belong and where we go from here. Then it all ends without ever having known what it all was for. We are born. We live. We die. We are gone. In between each phase, we struggle with growing pains, stretching for more, for beyond, for the purpose to our struggle and to our lives.

Throughout history it seems others have it all figured out. They eventually die -- or so we believe -- and it is too late to ask them what they saw we did not. These magnificent butterflies may leave stories or words, parables or truths we did not experience through our senses and so we are told to believe and have faith. We will understand some day, but do we? Do we truly understand or are we still wobbly-legged toddlers taking our first steps or babies kicking the air and eventually rolling over onto our bellies to wriggle our way across the ground? We are all caterpillars struggling to spin cocoons from which we emerge butterflies after great pains into the light of the next phase of our lives.

Is this what Francisco of Assisi learned when he emerged from his fever to spend days in the fields and eventually cast off his finery to walk naked through the streets to the ruin of San Damiano to rebuild as one by one his young friends cast off their families and possession to join him as humble beggars living as the poor, walking barefoot from place to place to spread the message that peace and hope were not to be found among the distractions of the accepted way of life? It was not the perfect understanding of an ascended master like Yeshua bar Joseph, merely a glimpse of the change that awaits us all as we struggle for understanding in a world gone mad where hate, greed, and entertainment divert us all from what is right in front of us. We have not even the glimpse that Francis saw before following what he saw as the way to take in his grasp and to follow what he knew of the enlightenment of the Holy Roman Church. That path is still open for those who choose to believe, but it is not the final destination merely a way station on the road.

I've begun to see reports and videos of followers of Islam who find peace and a better way than obedience or death in a set of beliefs that run counter to the peace and limited enlightenment of Christianity or even Judaism. Those systems of belief were forged during a time when mankind was ignorant of other beliefs, other methods of finding enlightenment -- at least in the Western world. The Eastern world follow Buddhism toward enlightenment for the same message offered in those teachings echo Christianity and Judaism, both of which sprang from a different well. Though nearly extinct, the New World followed the path of the Incas, Maya, and Aztec, among others and what remains after the conquerors from Europe raped and pillaged a way into and among the First Nations of the northern territories of the New World also held a seed of enlightenment eventually shared with the newcomers and their descendants where seekers found a spark or a glimpse of enlightenment. Nowhere on this planet, not even in the vast reaches of Australia, have seeds of enlightenment not been spread, some codified in organized religions and the rest as whispers in the dark promising the light.

Though it seems impossible that light is visible in the turmoil and darkness of our modern times, we all struggle, weakly or with increasing power, toward the light, moths to the brightness that flares in the darkness drawing us forward, ever onward to the promise of enlightenment. Maybe that is why at this time we find everything changing and a man like Trump at the helm promising a return to better times, more profitable and peaceful times, but we will not find it by following another flawed demagogue for truth and the path ahead does not go where Trump or Obama or Clinton or leaders around the world are going. The light that fills our minds and brings peace to our hearts is all around us, visible when we cast aside the distractions that make it oh so difficult to see. Enlightenment fills the planet, the trees, the animals, and everywhere we look when we refuse to be distracted.

We need not be beggars or follow the paths carved out before us. Some few may glimpse the light, but not enough of us until we shed all that hampers us from embracing what has always been freely given. We are racked with the aches and pains of turning away from the distractions that beset us, the bright, shiny objects that pull our focus on what matters most -- the light. Flashes of brilliance blind us temporarily and yet through the blinding glare the clear pulse of true light remains.

We are no longer children, but teenagers tortured as we fight free of our cocoons. Like the butterfly, we must free ourselves of the confines of our cocoons, the fight for freedom strengthening sinew, sending blood pumping to new wings that change as the wrinkles of confinement disappear while the blood forced by the effort to escape the confines of our previous existence, raise blood-filled wings, test the air, and finally leap into the sparkling air into the existence that has always been right there in front of us. With each beat of our wings, we move closer to the light and closer to the real change we could not see or even glimpse while distracted by sparkly bits and bright flashes that obscured what lay before us. The growing pains will subside with each beat of our wings. As we move forward into the light we will shed the rest of the shreds and patches of the cocoon, leaving a drying husk to mark our metamorphosis and to point the way for the butterflies and moths to mark the path for all willing to test their wings and accept enlightenment and realization that we were and are meant for more. In our wake we lead the way into a brighter and more peaceful reality where we can exercise the wings carrying us to the phase of existence where we will no longer be hampered by earthly constraints. That is our destination the future, growing pains and horrors, hate and aggression behind us, as we move into the light.

That is all. Disperse.