Good Gardening Intentions Not So Evident

good gardening intentions,

Warsaw University Botanical Garden plan

My gardens are made of the best intentions.

In the winter I flip through gardening catalogs and map out planting schemes. I read diverse and wonderful books like Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture, The Winter Harvest Handbook: Year Round Vegetable Production Using Deep Organic Techniques and Unheated Greenhousesand Invasive Plant Medicine: The Ecological Benefits and Healing Abilities of Invasives. I tell myself I’ll be a better gardener the next spring. More energetic, more diligent, more heat tolerant.

That doesn’t happen.

I intend to plant with deep reverence for seed and soil. And I start out that way. But somehow I always find myself hurrying to get one more row in before the sprinkling rain becomes a downpour. The seeds I so carefully saved dump out as I bend over like peasant women have done for eons. The dirt I thought reasonably crumbly is, instead, filled with clay-ish clods unlikely to make a hospitable home for new life.

Indoors it’s not much better. No one is more optimistic than I with my peat pots, grow lights, and warming trays. I talk to those seeds as I plant them, bless them as I mist them, greet sprouts with happy enthusiasm. Somehow between March starting and May setting out, those plants end up looking like the odd kids among their nursery-raised fellows.

Then the heat hits and my best intentions fail. This year, just as every other year, my not-so-well-maintained garden is a constant surprise. I mistake watermelon radish sprouts for weeds and pull them all out. The row I replanted, thinking the beets didn’t germinate, now contains both beets and arugula. Volunteer tomatoes and scarlet runner beans thrill me. Volunteer tomatillo plants plague me. The fig trees we planted against our stucco’d south-facing wall are thriving after a harsh winter, with actual figs ripening. The hardy kiwis we planted against a giant arbor are, embarrassingly, only a foot tall.

But the biggest delight is how much the garden doesn’t need me. My ministrations are marginal, hardly necessary next to nature’s real magic. Sure, I water pretty diligently from our rain barrel and pond. I weed a little every day, but not much, since hot weather makes me feel like keeling over. But I’m not remotely responsible for the riot of life growing around me. These flowers, vegetables, and weeds are all beautiful.

This time of year is truly nature’s long gift-giving holiday. Every day I come in with armfuls of produce. A basket of basil and garlic to make pesto. Cucumbers and tender squash for salad. Baskets of beans, potatoes, and kale to layer in a frittata with our hens’ eggs. A few tomatoes for salsa. Soon we’ll be canning day after day, filling shelves in the cellar with food that’ll last until late next summer. My good intentions may not be evident along the rows ragged with weeds, but Earth’s good intentions are abundantly obvious. For that I’m endlessly grateful.



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Gardener’s Quotes



“Flowers always make people better, happier, and more helpful. They are sunshine, food, and medicine for the soul.”  Luther Burbank



“A weed is but an unloved flower.”



“Garden: One of a vast number of free outdoor restaurants operated by
charity-minded amateurs in an effort to provide healthful, balanced
meals for insects, birds and animals.” Henry Beard



“Earth is here so kind, that just tickle her with a hoe and she laughs with a harvest.” Douglas William Jerrold



“Land, then, is not merely soil; it is a fountain of energy flowing through a circuit of soils, plants, and animals. ” Aldo Leopold



“I do some of my best thinking while pulling weeds.” Martha Smith



“Everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature, is a help. Gardening is an instrument of grace.” May Sarton



“To forget how to dig the earth and to tend the soil is to forget ourselves.”  Mahatma Gandhi



“Cabbage: a familiar kitchen-garden vegetable about as large and wise as a man’s head.”  Ambrose Bierce



“In the garden I tend to drop my thoughts here and there. To the flowers I whisper the secrets I keep and the hopes I breathe. I know they are there to eavesdrop for the angels.” Dodinsky


“Gardening is the art that uses flowers and plants as paint,
and the soil and sky as canvas.”  Elizabeth Murray



“No greater thing is created suddenly, any more than a bunch of grapes or a fig. If you tell me that you desire a fig, I answer you that there must be time. Let it first blossom, then bear fruit, then ripen.” Epictetus



“Shall I not have intelligence with the earth? Am I not partly leaves and vegetable mould myself?”  Henry David Thoreau


“When weeding, the best way to make sure you are removing a weed and not a valuable plant is to pull on it. If it comes out of the ground easily, it is a valuable plant.”  unknown


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We Can’t Even Give Water Lilies Away…

About ten years ago my sister-in-law sweetly shared some water lilies from a small water feature in her yard. I think she gave us five. They’re beautiful. The flowers reach up in graceful blooms during the sunny part of the day and fold into themselves close to dusk.

Despite their delicate appearance, they’re hardy. The original five gradually self-propagated year after year. We can now watch frogs hop from lily pad to lily pad across many feet. We can now see well over 100 blooms. What we now have are too many water lilies.

We’ve tried adding sterile grass carp to the pond because they supposedly eat water lilies. No noticeable effect. We’ve tried raking the lilies to the side to pull out. Not effective enough. We’ve even tried offering them on Freecycle to anyone who wants them. Not a single taker. We don’t want to eliminate the plants, just cut down on the population. Since we’re a pesticide/herbicide free place we have no intention of poisoning them.

So unless you want to come on over for some free water lilies (lots of them) what has to happen is this. We’ll be wading in and digging out as many as we can to toss on a compost pile. Chances are it’ll be scene worth recording because I’m likely to fall down, tip over, and otherwise demonstrate my awkwardness. You will NOT be seeing footage of this!

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New Sculpture From Old Metal


Bit of Earth Farm sculpture, repurposed metal sculpture, junk sculpture,

Repurposed metal sculpture from Bit of Earth Farm.

Mark and Kirby just finished this piece, a six-foot-something tall gong repurposed from all sorts of metal. Here’s how it’s done.



1941 oxygen canister

grapeshot cannonball

farm implement disc

leftover steel gas line

steel rod

tow hook

lifting hook



Apply welding equipment. Mix in vast amounts of effort, time, and creativity. Add sweat.

Place in garden. Hit gong with cannonball as desired.


We’re grateful that our friends (and amazing artists) Steve and Debra Bures will be offering the piece for sale starting this weekend as they celebrate Elements Gallery‘s 25th year anniversary. You’ll want to visit the charming town of Peninsula as well as their enticing gallery. While you’re there, give the gong a hearty cannon ball thwack!

Elements Gallery, Peninsula Ohio

Here’s the gong in place, in front of their gallery.

Bit of Earth Farm, Elements Gallery, repurposed metal art,

Elements Gallery garden now gong-enhanced.


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Gee, That’s Huge

Picture this covered by fruit-bearing vines.

The man I love has an odd fondness for doing things in a big way. Not big as in loud or ostentatious. He’s simply a fan of what’s sturdy, made to last, and sized to handle whatever might happen. He’s had plenty of opportunity while fixing up our no longer falling down house. The back porch is now built on 6 x 6 rather than more standard 4 x 4. It has heavy beams and railings, plus a lovely blue metal ceiling. Chances are it’ll outlast the house.

Bit of Earth Farm porch

No photo does this sturdy porch justice.

Years ago I made fun of him for buying several giant stockpots (the largest holds 8 gallons). Turns out they’re essential for autumn canning days when we transform two bushels of apples into applesauce, a few gallons of grape juice into jelly, and the fruits of 30 or so tomato plants into marinara, stewed tomatoes, and salsa. The pot also holds enough chili or mulled cider for giant gatherings we love to host here, holidays as well as Odd Second Saturday Suppers.

One of our smaller stockpots on the right.

Yes, I made fun of the giant masher he bought too. But then, I cook at least 5 pounds of potatoes every time I make mashed potatoes, so it’s entirely useful.


Potato masher that dwarfs a spoon.

And then there’s this mallet. A few more and we could play a Paul Bunyan-sized game of croquet.


A mallet taller than our fire place.

So when we talked about a structure for hardy kiwi plants known for their vigorous climbing vines, I shouldn’t have been surprised at what he built.


Drilling post holes.

Putting sides together.

Putting sides together.

Making it level before putting cement around posts.

Soon, hardy kiwi fruits will be ripening!

It’s adorable in a huge way. It’s 24 feet, rising to a 12 foot, 9 inch peak. We call it an arbor, our daughter calls it Kiwihenge,  archaeologists may some day call it “what the heck?”





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Perfect Winter Day

Trumpet guy (sculpted by Kirby) still wearing a Santa hat.

Trumpet guy (sculpted by Kirby) still wearing a Santa hat.

I love winter. I’ll take wind and snow over any steamy summer day. I know I’m in the minority here. And I know extreme cold isn’t kind to people and creatures without adequate shelter. Still, I adore the invigorating effect of cold and the way snow enhances the beauty around me.

I also adore how much less work there is in winter. Nothing to plant, weed, harvest, or put up. Just the occasional pleasure of digging up a few rutabagas and sunchokes from crumbly frozen soil when I’m ready to roast them into warm dinner offerings.

Here’s what it looks like on our little farm.

My husband is committed to feeding the birds. He makes his own suet mixture from peanut butter, lard, seed, and dry fruit. In this weather he fills the feeders more than once a day. This time lapse taken by Sam shows bird visits in 45 minutes.

Fence post shadows look blue against the snow.

Fence post shadows look blue against the snow.

Wind has shaken snow’s coating off tree branches.

Our Christmas tree, now designated as wildlife habitat.

The kids made me contemplation stools, the better to enjoy chicken watching.

Years ago the kids made me a contemplation stool, to better enjoy chicken watching. Not using it at these temps.

Chickens emerge from the coop to investigate some kitchen scraps.


Isabelle and Clovis chomp on carrots and cabbage.

Yes, Isabelle is still patiently nursing her giant calf.

My attempt at a snow angel. It looks like a snow moth or maybe a snow frog.

My attempt at a snow angel. It looks like a snow moth or maybe a snow frog.

I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape. Something waits beneath it; the whole story doesn’t show.  ~Andrew Wyeth

In the winter she curls up around a good book and dreams away the cold. ~Ben Aaronovitch

It is a spur that one feels at this season more than at any other. How nimbly you step forth! The woods roar, the waters shine, and the hills look invitingly near. You do not miss the flowers and the songsters, or wish the trees or fields any different, or heavens any nearer. Every object pleases…. the straight light-gray trunks of the trees… how curious they look, and as if surprised in undress. ~John Burroughs

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