Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Tangled Roots

"Yes, the roots of all living things are tied together.  Deep in the ground of being, they tangle and embrace.  This understanding is expressed in the term nonduality.  If we look deeply, we find that we do not have a separate self-identity, a self that does not include sun and wind, earth and water, creatures and plants, and one another.  We cannot exist without the presence and support of the interconnecting circles of creation-- the geosphere, the biosphere, the hydrosphere, the atmosphere, and the sphere of our sun.  All are related to us; we depend on each of these spheres for our very existence." - Joan Halifax

A little over five weeks ago we lost Kevin's Uncle Steve to cancer.  The morning he passed our friend Eric cut a little volunteer off a Juneberry tree.  We took it home, put it in composted soil, fed it rain water & sun, & cared for it as we honored Steve's passing.

See that green shoot?  New growth.  We'll plant it in the ground adjacent the conchord vines in about a month.  Everytime we tend the tree, or receive its fruits, we stay connected to Steve.  His presence is with us.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Love Fest

Any encounter with the Bonfillas leaves us smiling.  Performing their spring clean-up is no exception.  Kevin went over this week to trim, weed, mulch & generally beautify the Bonfilla's property for the warmer months.  Rooted Landscaping co-created this design.  I really love it.  Skip laurels make such a sweet screen & their long white flowers pop against the white porch.  This is one of my favorite uses of heuchera, that purple plant in the foreground.  The color is dramatized against the skips & picks up some accent paint of the trim on the house.  Lots of style-- like the Bonfillas themselves.

Yesterday we received the following emails from them:

From Brett: 


Thanks for making our yard look so incredibly good.  And for leaving the flowers for Beth.

Your work makes a huge difference in the quality of our lives.  Yard care is something Beth and I both avoid doing, and it's also something that stresses us out.  It's incredibly freeing not to have that stress, and totally exhilarating each time we come home to see our house looking so good.

Thanks again,


From Beth:

yeah yeah yeah!!!!!  we love when you take care of our yard!!!

From Rooted Landscaping:

Aw shucks.  Left us grinning again!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Friday, April 19, 2013

Full bellies from the Rooted Landscaping home garden

Here's a sample of what's cooking in the Rooted Landscaping home garden.  In the photo below you see blueberry hill extending along the length of the fence.  In the foreground, against the fence, we've planted two rhubarbs.  Apparently they like buddies.  We planted bare root bulbs where they'll get plenty of sun & have enough room to expand and grow.  We probably won't get much of a harvest for two years.

I'm not a big rhubarb eater, but I do have substantial rhubarb aesthetic appreciation.  These are big focal points in a garden.  They have beautiful color & become fairly low-maintenance once established.  I like to integrate rhubarb into landscape designs for the sheer color and shape.  Edible plants are often lovely.  

Outside of the photo but around where the photographer stood is the little baby persimmon tree.  Given the orientation of the yard, as the tree goes its shade should fall downhill, where we plan a little yoga space (!) & leave the adjacent plants in full sun.

The trench slightly down hill from the rhubarb is now housing asparagus roots.  As the spears begin to poke up we'll slowly add more soil until the bed is level with the grade of the hill.  This plant is also fairly low maintenance.  Most asparagus patches have a life-span of 10-12 years.  We'd like to extend the patch in 5 years to create a nice on-going cycle of asparagus.
Oh, glowing corn.  In the foreground is a raised bed reserved for our friend, Sonora.  We've lured her with land so we get the added benefit of her insight into our growing garden.  See that goofy business with old fence doors & posts behind?  A jerry-rigged cucumber trellis to shade some lettuces.  Give it time.  I have faith.

The rows of logs & soil beyond now house corn seeds & soaker hoses.  There are four rows so that we could interplant corn & sunflowers in diamond patterns.  This is reccommended for corn growth.  They like small hills for water drainage. Given our surplus of logs we decided to hold in the arable soil for the corn with these logs.  It helps direct the water down hill and away from the base of the stalks.  So far so good.

Once we have about three inches of corn stalks we plan to plant the three sisters: squash to crawl over the ground & create a weed barrier, and beans to climb the corn stalks & fix the soil nitrogen.
This little raised bed is showing some life.  We planted the sweet peas & chard early.  They're said to be nice companion plants & provide an early harvest.  There's a big ole chard leaf coming in against the warmth of the log border.  There are more peas planted in other parts of the yard with natural trellising.
Early yields of onions and red cabbage.  We're waiting for the onion leaves to fall over to begin harvesting, drying, & curing the crop.

More food & fun to come!  Yum!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013


Some of what catches a ride in Rooted wheel barrows.
 These bike rims were generously donated by the Collingswood Bike Share.  Stay posted as they magically transform into a trellis for conchord grape vines!
A boy in his barrow.  Chilling for lunch.  Digging in dirt elicits deep thoughts.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

To all you lushes out there...

We need your help.

And your empty wine bottles.

You get the idea.  The post is one of our clotheslines.  I've planted this raised bed with sweet peas that we're hoping to train up the post.

We're beginning to run out of felled logs to frame out raised beds.  For several beds, especially those with undulating edges, we're using buried wine bottles to hold in the soil.  In the area surrounding this bed we're hoping to plant something nice & soil-amending, maybe vetch, maybe clover because the neighboring grape vines are said to like it.

The first time we saw buried wine bottles was at Aaculaax, during a trip to Guatemala.  If you want to see the inspiration in person, check out the yoga retreat I'm leading there next year!

We had collected crates of empty wine bottles from family vacations.  We used them all.  Do you have wine bottles you would donate?  Contact me to coordinate pick-up.  Blue bottles are best!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Prepping the veggie garden

On Easter Sunday Kevin & I laid out the seed packets we'd acquired & began plotting.

We haven't done starts during the winter because we usually travel.  Also, our house gets very little sunlight so if we ever do start from seed during the winter, we'll need grow lamps.  Instead, we usually direct sow, get cuttings & starts from friends, & buy a few starts.
Consulting some books & online, we figured out the best companion plantings.  We're doing interplanting of several plants in the same bed to save space.  We're also doing this to get sequential harvests from the same beds.  Last year we planted strawberries, which were harvested in June.  In August we planted spinach in the same bed to get a fall yield.  Due to the mild winter this bed is giving us another round of spinach & we're finding fresh strawberry leaves!  Perfect.  We can keep successive plantings of both crops in the bed.  The strawberries may prove to be too invasive for the spinach, but then again, maybe not!
So delicious!  I was a nerd who loved getting the course catalogue before each college semester.  I imagined each class & was sure that it would be my most stimulating, thought-provoking learning experience.  Planning my veggie beds feels somewhat similar.  All of the sudden I'm sure this will be the year when I'll have bountiful harvests of healthy plants.  Probably, I'll continue to better plan & care for the plants in my midst.  And as I do, weather permitting, I'll gradually receive greater yields.  And I'll learn as I watch, observe, & stay consistent.  But I probably can't plan the miraculous.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Food Forest. It's happening.

Kevin & I are slowly transforming our suburban home into a small farm.  Or, we're working towards sustainability, both in terms of sound environmental stewardship & being rewarded with food from our land.  Our home & property are fixer upper's so there have been long periods of preparation.  We look forward to having the space more self-sufficient.  Maybe that's a pipe dream.  Maybe we look forward to just maintenance work.

We called in some friends & spent a cool, sunny day installing some delicious new fruit trees, bushes, & vines!  In the space between our clothes-lines & our neighbor's garage, we built raised beds for conchord grapes & a fig tree.  The garage will give some nice wind barrier for the fig.  We plan to construct a trellis out of bicycle rims about a foot from the neighbor's garage.  That will give the conchords something to climb.  For fun, I planted sweet peas at the base of the clothesline posts.  My hope is to train them up the posts.  We'll see if it works!

Our backyard is full of roots & rocks.  We've been sheet mulching the yard even while we plant food in raised beds.  The raised beds allow us to grow vegetables to keep us encouraged!  It would be years before the soil was sufficiently root free & healthy enough to give us much of a food yield.  This way we can slowly support the soil while getting the quicker rewards of raised bed gardening.
After clearing the weeds we added some weed barrier.  Cardboard works great!  It's water permeable & will break down within a season or two.  This first growing season, when weed prevention is crucial, it will function just fine!

We added composted soil on top, planted the conchords & fig, & ran soaker hoses to give the new guys a long drink.

We went through the same process across the yard along our neighbor's fence.  We're calling this area "blueberry hill."  After prepping and building beds we planted 10 new blueberry bushes & transplanted two existing bushes that were struggling in a shady area of the yard.
 Lots of sun & drainage on blueberry hill!  Perfect.

At the far end we planted a persimmmon tree.  When it reaches full size at 15-20 ft it's shade radius shouldn't interfere with the blueberries getting lots of sunshine.
 A close-up of one of our new arrivals.  We planted a variety of blueberries for nice cross pollination.

We also planted two hugelkultur beds of raspberries & blackberries.  There was much debate about where to create the berry bramble.  We worked with what we have & created two thickets in front of four new fruit trees.  We planted two varieties of apple tree that cross-pollinate well, a black cherry, and peach tree.

Lots of fun talk of what to plant next & where.  Kevin made home-made pizza for the workers.  We happily soaked in sun before getting back to work!

Stay posted as these new additions take root.

Friday, April 5, 2013

A Yogic Approach to Gardening

Man, spring has made us busy bees.  There is lots to report but not so much time to report it.  Keep an eye out for updates here!

Meanwhile, I came across a photo from one of our workshops this winter.
This photo was taken during the set-up for our "Yogic Approach to Gardening" workshop offered twice at Yogawood studios.  Participants experienced guided meditation, received practical gardening advice, were able to ask questions, generate conversation, & build community with others who are working towards mindful land stewardship.

We archived hand-outs from the workshop & created a google group for participants to continue the dialogue.  Check out the resources, join the group, & let us know if you'd like to host the next workshop!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Burying Debt

I fantasize about taking my television or laptop into the backyard and shooting it. I resent the time I've wasted on mindless browsing and watching, and I crave the catharsis that destroying TVs and computers might bring. Today, I did something with similar symbolic implications. I buried my credit card statements, my mortgage statements and other papers indebting thousands of hours of my life to institutions that I have no power over. Many of those documents are now providing a weed barrier for the new raised beds I installed over the winter. Though this action was purely symbolic, though in fact the bank still owns 75% of our house, and I owe Visa nearly a thousand hours of my labor, this small action felt really, really good.

Over the winter Maiga and I were cleaning out our filing cabinets. At the end of the day we had a large brown bag filled with documents we no longer needed. These documents had lots of personal financial information, so we didn't want to throw them away, but we didn't want to take the time to shred them. I put them in the basement and figured I'd throw them into a campfire this summer. 

Today as I was gathering up cardboard to act as weed barrier in the raised beds, I noticed the heaping pile of papers. As I threw rich, black composted soil over the bills I felt incredible. Here's to planting seeds of independence and interdependence, to putting our bills to better use, to shooting our televisions, and to designing the lives we want to live!

(This post was written on 3/16 for later publication.)