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Happy Homesteading

May 19th, 2013 at 11:09 am by Karen Dale

 

Easy to say, All’s Right in Our World, in the merry month of May.

It’s a pleasure to be outdoors. The weather’s mild and nurturing, nature’s green and fulsome, and the biggest blossoms of the season are up, proud, and colorful. Rhodies, azaleas, and tree peonies—oh MY!

May Day at Homestead Farm

 R.I.S.K  (Rock Island String Kollective) was asked to play music at Homestead Farm on Saturday for their May Day Celebration. When I got there around 1, around 20 kids and their parents were bouncing around the pond, vegetable plots, and goat pen. The male goats reared up to butt heads (sound of coconuts clonked together), while the farm’s fluffy white angora bunny (nothing rabbity left in that critter’s genes) tried to hide in the tall grass away from reaching little hands.

In the center of all this hub-bub was the  Maypole, rainbow spokes of ribbons tacked to the ground with nails. This is the sixth year that Dana’s held this spring celebration, and the pole was wrapped tight in last year’s faded ribbons. When Dana called us all to take up a ribbon, we each introduced ourselves and named our favorite colors—which as often as not were reflections of favorite things. “Lilac,” said Mom #1. “Tangerine,” said I. “The white that’s the color of clouds,” said the videographer. “River!” said the little boy named River—and his dad, beaming down, said “Mine’s River, too. “I can’t decide which is my favorite,” said Kolo, “so I choose the Rainbow.”

After David Godsey yelled out some barely-listened-to instructions on how to weave the Maypole ribbons, Shane, Janet, and I struck up our violins and guitar and gave them a few tunes to do-see-do by. “MORE MORE MORE!” cried the kids (bless them!) and so we gave them “Swallowtail” and ‘Ten-Penny Jig”, then ‘Snowdon’s,” “Arkansas Traveler,” and our theme song “Mairi’s Wedding.” And then the Pole was woven, Shane took his position to play for the CakeWalk, and it was time for me to leave this happy gang to their cake, sugar-rush and video interviews on “How to Make a Healthier World.”

On to the Backyard Homestead of Lotus

The Fruit Club was enjoying its annual tour of two member’s berry plantings. I couldn’t make Dr. Bob Norton’s show-n-tell of his strawberry trials, but I did want to see Lotus’s deep backyard garden.

In only three years, Lotus and her partner have planted up about a 1/4 acre (I’m guessing) into a medley of vegetable beds, dwarf orchard trees, flowers, berry patches, and chicken runs. It’s BIG: you’d have to walk among the beds daily to know what’s ready to eat, what’s ready to go.

Some of her sourcing comes from fruit experts like Raintree Nursery, such as the green netting used for her berry cage, which she said is MUCH easier to work with that that finger-clinging black bird netting. Raintree had sent, as a thank-you, a dwarf nectarine tree, here seen under a rainguard; it was loaded with fruit.

And some came from neighbors. One has an old Golden Delicious apple tree that’s falling apart from age and has terrible scab. But the fruit is so delicious that Lotus has grafted scions of it onto her dwarf Liberty apple, in hopes of keeping this delicious fruit alive when its mother tree is gone. She had just learned how to graft from the Fruit Club’s workshop; black-tape evidence of her trials were in nearly all her orchard trees. 

Other items & tips came from farmers: the raspberries here came mostly from Island Meadow Farm, while that support idea came from GreenMan Farm. “The raspberries grow right through and don’t lean over the paths,” Lotus explained. 

It occurred to me afterward that Island Living offers most of us this opportunity to homestead right in our backyards. Up front, Lotus’s place looks like any humble suburban home—but that deep backyard offers enough sun and space to allow her to grow an amazing amount of food. I’d never seen fava beans, but here they were, already sized up and in amazing flower. No wonder they say it’s a good crop for cool spring.

At Homestead school, a big chunk of Dana’s field was tilled up for food production, already growing a long row of lettuces and brassicas. I’m sure that a significant part of her curriculum is rooted right in this ground. Let’s all hope that, when the kids are asked by that videographer “What Makes a Healthier World?” one of them, loaded up with cake & sugar, will shout, “GROWING GOOD THINGS TO EAT!” 

That’s having your cake and eating it, too. Happy growing.

 

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About Karen Dale

gardens on the south end of Vashon Island, on a sandy hilltop overlooking Quartermaster Harbor. "Garden On, Vashon" shares what the Island has to teach us about gardening HERE—from making soils to sowing seeds to raising plants to harvest, cooking, preserving, and designing new ways to cultivate your little chunk of Vashon Island. To contact me, email karendale@centurytel.net, or leave a comment.

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