July 21, 2014

Adding Birdhouses

Friends, I've purchased a formal domain, and I'm working and learning how to get it up and running quickly. Hopefully, there shouldn't a problem with the transition with email updates and such. I'll be sure to let you know.

I spend day 199 of the forest garden installing birdhouses. It was an easy project to complete. I wasn't joking about the birdhouse purchase when I mentioned it here. I think I bought them that day actually. I want the garden to be a natural oasis. To help control the insect population, I need the birds. I have a water and a feeder for them, but I wanted to give them a reason to stay. Sure, they will eat some of my harvest, but that's ok. There should be plenty. I think they recently figured out that the goji berries were a treat.

In college we have to design a bird house, and I soon realized each type of bird has unique requirements for their nest. I purchased the birdhouses from this ETSY shop for about $6 a piece, so it was worth it to buy them instead of make them. They are for bluebirds with a 1.5 inch diameter entrance. As also with my inspiration, they are mounted on a pole 5 feet off the ground. 

I read that it's best to not mount them to a tree for protection from predators and is best to mount on a post in the sun. The direction it faces is whatever is best for the bird watcher. They all face the house for me. I also tried to space them out as best I could. They are at least 25 feet from each other.

I read that the birdhouses can be left up all year and is best to put them up before winter.

Mounting them to the metal pol was really easy. The tool part, not so much. I found this video helpful, but I decided to go with bigger the conduit. 

  • (5) 3/4"- 10' conduit
  • (1) bag 2 hole straps for 3/4" 
  • (2) bags of 1/2" wood screws
  • (1) 3' metal stake (in the rebar section)
The store wouldn't cut the conduit for me. I wanted the birdhouse entry at 5 feet and 18 inch of pole in the ground. Lucky for me, a neighbor had borrowed the metal cutting tool from another neighbor. Then I mounted the poles to the birdhouses. I only bought 1 bag of screws, but I already had some to finish finish the job. I used the stake, just like the video, to make the 18 inch deep hole and used my weight to push the poles with the attached birdhouses into the ground. I tend to change my mind about things, so I didn't want to use concrete... just in case. 

I spent Sunday morning drinking my coffee and watching the bird activity. No takers so far. The birds seem to be more preoccupied with the sunflowers.

credits & resources: all photos by Jamie at A CITY GIRL // birdhouses101.com // video by NESTCAMS // ETSY Shop by sp11dy

July 16, 2014

Growing Outside the Garden Box 2014

Last year I showed you Growing Outside of the Garden Box 2013 edition. The wheat was great, the sunchokes did pretty well and coming back this year, my love for comfrey continues, I have bits of the amaranth that reseeded itself, the stevia didn't survive the hot summer, the cardoon continues to thrive, and as you know my beloved purple tree collards didn't make it through the freezing rain.  

Fast forward to day 196 in the edible forest garden. It's obvious I've started an unusual collection of perennial edibles most don't know what they are or their use. In conjunction, I'm planting them with your typical annuals found at the grocery story. My goal is to have a complete edible perennial garden with supporting species. I'm hoping to try to grow about 300 species. 

This may not seem very 'out of the box,' but this plant is totally useful. It's edible, it will become a living fence, wind screen, privacy fence, use as chop and drop, helps with erosion, and the poles will be used for trellises and such. It's really a very useful plant.

I'm ordering Golden Goddess Bamboo (seen in the photo) in the fall and hope to plant them in October. If you are worried they are going to grow away from my yard, I purchased the clumping type of bamboo.

Ah yes, another not so 'out of the box' plant. Isn't it a little scary that it's scientific same is Ilex Vomitoria? Most hollies are actually edible and used for tea. The tea could be found in stores in the 70's. The yaupon holly has more caffine than coffee and when given nitrogen, you can get even more caffine. This video is a great source for the hollies and tea. 

I purchase this lady (has berries) this weekend but I don't plan to plant it till this fall. The yaupon hollies come in all sizes. I decicied to go with the weeping type to add a different texture to the landscape.

Not the candy! This is an asian fruit that is typically called an asian date. Some varitieties are better left on the tree to dry. I purchased the Li and Coco that should be good fresh as well as left to dry on the tree. According to this website, Texas is perfect for this tree. 

I purchase both trees at One Green World and plan to recieve them in the fall.

This plant is more common growing wild in Europe. It's a medicial and edible in many forms. Wine, jam, and pies to name a few. This recipe for Elderberry jam recipe is used for colds. "I'm not feeling so swell, better go make biscuits and with jam!" Jam sounds way better than taking any medication.

I planted the American Elderberry this spring and is only about 9" tall. Blast to perennials and their slow growth!

These are a unique fruit that resembles the texture of custard inside. I have't tried them yet, but they are native to the North American. They aren't found in stores because they don't have a long shelf life because they bruise easily. 

I purchased two this spring and was sorely dissapointed in the quality I recieved. I have a tiny seeding, but have also bought two more to plant this fall. One of the varieties claims to set fruit within two years which seems to be early for this fruit. It grows in shade or will produce more fruit in the sun. Parts of the plant are made to make insecticde, so bugs and deer don't really like this tree. I found this video helpful. 

There's just five good unique things I'm growing and or have purchased for this fall. I'm already researching for spring 2015 plants! Fall planning is well under way and hope to share more soon. It's crazy how much the master plan is changing, sometimes daily. I need to start an 'as built' plan.

credits & resources: bamboo photo by Beautiful Bamboo // Holly source by Eat the Weeds // Jujube photo by onegreenworld.com // Elderberry photo from elderberryjuice.net // Edlerberry Jam Recipe by James Wong from Cooking Channel // pawpaw image by onegreenworld.com

July 14, 2014

Permaculture Orchard Film Review

This weekend I purchased Permaculture Orchard. I'm always hungry for more permaculture information, and I also like to support the permaculture world.

It's definitely a how-to for an orchard set-up with charming graphics and tunes. I'm not sure it's a useful video for the permaculture newbie backyard gardener, but more for new or existing commercial applications. I'm not planning a commercial farm and still soaked in lots of useful information, though. It's different from other videos because it focuses on the set-up of an orchard and not on plant species. It's structured by chapters, and obvious he works with nature.

My biggest take-home was the importance of creating bird habitat. I was so inspired by his birdhouses that I purchased 5 for my garden. There were tons of little details in the film that I haven't already heard. I continually hear that fall is the best time to plant trees and the film confirms it with a great explanation. They made grafting look so easy, I'm going to give it a try. The pull a weed, replace with an edible rule was a great idea. The tree care, from planting to pruning was excellently explained.

I honestly didn't get the permaculture warm fuzzies from the film, and I noticed a few permaculture principals that were left out. Perhaps it's because the orchard was converted from an existing one, but I still think there were a few things left unsaid. The third ethic explanation was... ok. It it could be better explained if they added return of surplus with the soil, as well. The explination of Return of surplus with nature gave me the impression it was just with the wildlife. I was also disappointed they didn't mention a water management system other than the irrigation tape. Like where does it come from? They could be harvesting water off of roofs and storing it tanks. The plastic mulch was just bad to me. In addition to water management, they didn't explain how they managed the waste on the orchard either. I kept waiting for him to mention site contours when he was explaining the row orientation, but it was never said. I think there is also potenial for a crop between the rows instead of just grass or maybe just a nitrogen fixing species. You know how I feel about grass... 

The film to me was more of a permaculutre hybrid and is so much better than the monocrop orchards of today. I really enjoyed this film, so don't misunderstand my picky improvements. Seriously, I'll be on the look out for the soundtrack, the tunes were pretty jazzy. To take it another step forward, I think the Forest Market Garden could be another approach. 

You can listen to another review on Permies by Paul Wheaton. Oddly enough I listened to the review, then watched the film, and not sure his opinion of it. It had to have been good enough because I purchased it.

images & sources: all opinions by Jamie at A CITY GIRL // image from Kickstarter // Forest Market Garden by The Survival Podcast // Review by Supreme Executive Producer with Bacon, Cheese & Sparkles, Paul Wheaton

July 11, 2014

Garden Inspiration 5

I'm a fanatic about researching anything I do, so I find lots of gardens. This is a series of inspiration worth sharing that has inspired me to create my garden. Inspiration is random, just like these posts.

Today I bring you James Prigioni's forest garden in New Jersey. This video is Natural Farming, From Dirt to Abundance in 92 dayI've been following him on youtube for awhile and continue to be amazed at the quantity he grows. His videos are raw and mostly just a walk through, but they are packed with lots of information.

If you normally pass on watching the videos, make this one an exception. Just watch the first 20 seconds. You can watch his garden go from nothing to an overly mass of abundance. You can also notice many pollinators bouncing from plant to plant. 

Hope you enjoyed it. Strong's Nursery is having their annual 50% off sale this weekend. I have a few things on the list to purchase. See you there.

credits & sources: Image by  James Prigioni // youtube.com/watch?v=bU3cmtOJQLw

July 9, 2014

8 Uses for Comfrey

Comfrey is the best herb. The permaculture world loves this plant and I concur! It's really helping me fix my digestive system. It's a very old medicinal herb. Just this morning I harvested a bunch of leaves. This year is the second year for my two plus plants. I purchased only two last year, and have at least 6 plants. I dug up and replanted the two from last year and because of the tap root, I have many more plants growing from the old location. 

The variety I have is a hybrid which is sterile. It only spreads by disturbing the roots. It's apparently hard to get rid, but I wouldn't know. It confuses me when I run into anyone who doesn't like this plant. There are so many uses, I'm sure there are more than 8 ways to use this plant. I'm focusing on garden uses and a few medicinal uses. I haven't tried all of the ways, but show good resources at the end of the post.

1-COMPOST TEA: I just started my first batch of this a few weeks ago and should be ready this weekend. I trimmed one of my large plants pretty good and put it all in a five gallon bucket. I filled it up with non chlorinated water and a few weeks later I'll have liquid fertilizer. I heard it's the worst smelling stuff but worth it. I will use the rotted plant in the compost or under a tree and put the liquid in a sprayer to feed my plants. I can't wait for the results.

2-FODER: I'd give this one a go if I had a chickens or cows... or goats. Folks with livestock say comfrey is a great addition to their animals' diet in small amounts. 

3-KNIT BONE: Comfrey's nick name is KNIT BONE. Luckily, I haven't needed to do use it this yet. Leaves soaked in boiling for a couple hours on bruises and fractures are a powerful healer. It's not advised for cuts because the healing powers of the plant can seal up an infection.

I wouldn't do this to replace anything a doctor would need to give attention to, but for a broken toe or something a doctor can't do much about is where this would be a perfect solution.

4-OIL: It takes about six weeks to make the oil. I'm almost 6 weeks into my oil process and I'v already used it on me and my pup for bug bites. The redness and the itching went away for about 24 hours and itched a whole lot less than when I was first bitten.

From what I understand, the oil is also good for putting on other bug bites, bruises and burns. I don't think oil is good in the garden or compost, so unfortunately, I'll have to throw away the leaves.

5-DRINKING TEA: I've been experimenting with it for over a month now. All you pretty much need is a pair of scissors, boiling water and about 4 hours. It's a pretty tasty drink when you add mint.

"Stop drinking water and start drinking herbal infusions!" -Susan Weed 

It's not recommended by some to ingest comfrey, so I'm not recommending. Doctors have been trying to heal me since 2007 and all it took start the healing process was drinking a tea from leaves in my backyard twice a day?! I kinda like this plant.

6-COMPOST ACTIVATOR: this is where the smelly leaves from the drinking tea and compost tea come into play. Instead of throwing them away, I add these to the compost pile and watch the magic over the coming days. I've been really impressed with the results. I've struggled with making compost until I started adding it.

7-CHOP & DROP: (Chop and drop isn't limited to just comfrey) The parts of the plant I don't use in the teas and oils, I throw down by my fruit trees. My fruit trees are much happier after I started doing this last season. Comfrey can take a pretty good chopping, so I'd heard this being done about twice a year.

8-TREE COMPANION: Every fruit tree I have, I planted a comfrey plant at the base. Since comfrey has a deep tap root and the trees roots are more spreading, the roots work well together. The deep tap root pulls minerals from the ground and is present in the leaves. The leaves give the minerals to the tree without having to do it myself.

If you made it this far and want to know more about comfrey, my resources are a great place for more information. 

I think it's safe to say that comfrey is my favorite plant. If something else reaches number one or comes close, I'll be sure to let you.  Please tell me what else you can do with it!

credits & resources: photos by Jamie Reed from A CITY GIRL
thesurvivalpodcast.com Episode 1371 & Episode 1343
Paul Wheaton's comfrey video: youtube.com/watch?v=yEHc_UzeT9w
Susan Weed Comfrey Oil: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TRenHn7Krz0
Rob Bob's Comfrey Tea: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Phx88V4rvUE 
Jack Spirko's video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1epRxWTdZYE

July 7, 2014

Trees I Hate to Love

It's Day 187 in forest garden and want to share a chop and drop story. A story that proves "The problem is the Solution." (a Geoff Lawton quote) This video is also helpful to understand the purpose of chop and drop in a more developed forest garden. You can chop and drop at any stage or even a lawn, but it's always inspiring to see a more mature system.

Every problem I have, I ask myself how it's the solution. I'm finally understanding it this time because I've hated these trees for coming back each year. My dad helped me cut the trees on the fence line down two summers ago. Because they grew in the fence, we didn't cut them down any lower than the top of the fence. I believe they were Hack berries, and didn't offer much more than shade, bird habitat and a screen. 

The new growth is easy to pull or cut off and toss on the nearest garden bed. It makes for good mulch and will turn into soil soon. Like mulching turn composting. I should have done this sooner because some of the limbs were almost too think to cut. I usually do this on an as needed bases. You can see from the image below that I have one tree left.

It's almost too simple, but that's what's so great about permaculture techniques. Little effort and I'm still building soil. I'm planning to grow more cover crops in each bed so I can chop and drop even more. 

Perhaps this was boring, but I write this in response to allllll the bags and bags of yard waste I see on the curb ready to be picked up for the landfill. Those are soil depleting techniques and landfill building. Call me crazy, but I'm into soil building and keeping as much as I can out of the landfill. AND this is just less work for everyone.

"There is no waste in nature" - Geoff Lawton

credits & resources: Images by Jamie at A CITY GIRL // Geoff Lawton // Video by Verge Permaculture 

July 1, 2014

Garden Report: June 2014

At the end of each month or at the beginning of the following month, I like to review each month. I like to review the progress, what I've harvested and how many hours I worked. I want to show how hard or how easy it is to create and maintain an edible forest garden

July 1st marks the 181st day in creating the forest garden. It's still hot, but we haven't reached 100 degrees...yet. I'm not sure it's possible to have a summer without reaching triple digits in Texas, but I'm crossing my fingers. The progress in the grass garden is a stand off. Overall, the trees are happy and the perennials are growing steady. 

 1. The Mulch Pile COMPLETE
Of course my neighbor helped me finish things ups. I'm so thankful and SO glad that is complete.

 2. Remove Grass.
I've spent almost 10 hours this month pulling grass and don't have much to show for myself. I have started to use a tarp to kill the grass. It's slow but effective. 

 3. Composting success.
After many failures of compost piles, I'm finally seeing beautiful results.

4. I emptied the aquaponics tote but haven't cut it out of the greenhouse. I think I hurt my back trying to push it over. 

5. I'm also trying to tidy up the place. The wood I used to form the borders is hanging up in the garage now.

6. The days we received rain, I took the time to chop and drop comfrey and a few other plants.


Wild: I found Queen Ann's Lace next to Petsmart of all places and made a nice tea from it. It was a strange carrot-like tea.
Herbs: I still harvest the mint and comfrey for tea almost twice a week.
FruitDuring my morning and evening garden walks, I've been able to get about a small handful of goji berries once a week. 
Veggies: I've continued to harvest the chard I planted out from the aquaponics system for smoothies. I picked a nice green bean harvest where I made these fries. I finished up the onion harvest. I've used some onions and gave some away to the neighbors.

June's harvest = about twice a week
Yearly harvest Total  = mint, surviving trees collard leaves, goji berries, onions, aloe vera, lots of comfrey, dandelion flowers, chard, Queen Ann's Lace and green beans.


June's work =  The averaged is embarrassing... maybe because I've been recording it on a calendar. I've been working this month mostly in large spurts. The mosquitoes are bad, so I have to dress up like it's cold. And as the theme goes, sing the sad grass garden song.
May = 25 hours
Yearly work Total = 195 hours

I've been listening to Jack, so I've been super inspired the last few days. Today I decided to dry my grass-garden-victim eyes and get things done. 

credits & resources: just my photos this time // see linked posts for particular sources