It has been a very unusual year for me and the garden.
In the garden we’ve had to struggle against constant big changes in the weather making the production varied and unpredictable. We had great production of winter squash but only one zucchini made it. We got 3 huge sunflowers, the first in many years. The heat then the big rains, then drought, then unusual cold at odd times so confused the poor plants they didn’t know whether to grow or make seeds. I had fruit trees flowering in the middle of the winter and this fall. Poor little trees. The bok choy that self seeded in the fall last year have been going nuts whereas former years it was tough to even get it to germinate. So, we kept planting and hoping, putting a multitude of cultivars in in the hopes that enough would do well to have production. The cool weather seeds were planted 3 times and only when it was close to freezing did they not melt in the soil.
Our internship program has been in its 10th year and we graduated two interns, while having 3 more joining thru the summer into fall, now winter. These people are so inspirational to me. They are hard working, enthusiastic, and fun. And they seem to like me too. J We have covered many subjects including liquid fertilizer teas; compost, manure, and weed teas. We’ve done a lot with composting, sheet mulching and composting in place, and the soil is amazing. We’ve done a lot of mulching techniques including chipping dried garden matter, and now autumn leaves saved for next year.
The bees have been amazing coming from wild and domesticated sources. One of my favorite have been the big bumble bees falling asleep in the beautiful passion flowers growing in the beds, all covered in yellow pollen, snoozing away. We kept things flowering all year, and the zinnias particularly attracted a ton of butterflies. Usually they like milkweed, but that didn’t come up this year. But boy, we had zinnias everywhere, many of them self-seeding.
The comfrey took hold in the hugelkulture berm at the bottom of the annual beds area, and we are looking forward to using it to fertilize the fruit trees next year. We had corn growing there as well as winter squash, stinging nettle in big pots, motherwort herbs, perilla, and other herbs and plants. All those years of throwing organic matter on the long pile is now paying off. Even the witch hazel bush flowered abundantly this fall for the first time. I even make my own witch hazel tincture for wounds, and skin care.
My tincture making has gotten completely crazy. I almost have to move out of my living room for the collection of bottles at the south end of the room for the variety and abundance of them. I use them personally a lot but occasionally I share them.
We’ve been making a couple of very effective ointments which I do sell, but I use a lot as well – Super Boo Boo Cream for all things skin, and Super Healing Herbal Salve II for Dr. Borja (my friend and chiropractor) I formulated for him after he had shoulder surgery. This one has turned out to be very effective for joints, pain, healing deeply, and after surgery for me and several friends. One of my oldest dearest friends kept having her knee go out of joint with unbearably pain an inflammation, so I sent her a tin. She got it and started using it, rubbing it in. She didn’t notice anything but then she realized her knee hasn’t gone out of joint since she’s been using it. When she quit for a couple of days, it went out again, so using again it stopped doing that. I say this only because it brings me great joy to know I helped a friend.
So, the year has been eventful in many more ways than I am mentioning above. Life goes on. I keep creating it the best way I know how. People have given me so much joy. My research has been so fascinating – that knowledge goes into my medicine making with the herbs I grow. And I keep trying new plants and save seeds. They are so interesting to me. The treasures that grow here in the Piedmont of the Appalachian (foot hills) Mtns, are continuously amazing me at how many things they do to help people if we only know how to use them, and honor them.
But as for Christmas, my goodness, is it almost a week away already? Yikes? We have a little potted pine tree I rescued out of the garden, planted no doubt by one of our industrious little squirrels, and has done us as a Charlie Brown Christmas Tree for about 5 years now. We put a little string of fairy lights on it, a few bulbs, and a topper, and call it good. The mantle gets some holly and lights, a few little cute things get put around – I love snowmen – to make it festive. I have a few friends I send home made gifts to around the country or locally, and a few cards go out – sadly none so far though, but I’m trying.
My Ladies Homestead Gathering had our party on Thurs night with a feast of good food from all the ladies, and a hilarious gift giving ‘dirty Santa’ gift exchange. I came home with a lovely wooden box with narcissus bulbs, and a little box of samples of home made soap. I brought a special bag of immune tea from my garden, a boa scarf I knitted, and 3 milk thistle plants for someone’s herb garden. All the presents were so creative and imaginative. This is a fun group. I laughed so hard! OMG.
My intern Rebecca has been taking pictures in the garden since last spring with her phone. So at the party she presented me with a book done so beautifully and professionally with remarkable photographs (this girl has the ‘eye’ of a true artist), and quotes. She made me cry! No one has ever given me such a gift. It was made by a company that takes what you send it and makes a hard back glossy coffee table book that will be my treasure forever. Thank you Becca. OMG.
My husband is doing somewhat better after his heart attack 2 years ago, and has been working part time doing skilled handyman work. And he’s back in his wood shop in the basement. He has been taking 100 + old year wood and making it into shelves, hook hanging shelves, and unique things. He’s also getting some long overdue dental work done and is seeing an orthopedist for his neck and lower back. I’m so proud of him for keeping up with life and moving forward.
I’ve overcome some physical problems myself. My mobility is greatly improved with some help with my ankle from another orthopedist, and some other breakthroughs. So, I’m able to do so much more. I turned 74 mid Nov. and although I do feel my age sometimes, my mind keeps presenting me with delicious ideas for my research, my garden, my history interests, friends, garden, herbalism, and the planet.
BTW, if you want to intern with me in the spring, PM or email me at Georgia Dirks, and we can talk about it. I only take 5 interns at a time, so it fills up fast. It’s the only internship program on the East Coast as far as I know, focusing on Permaculture, Korean Natural Farming techniques, and organic growing. It’s one 4 hour session a week. We’re in Barrow County, NE Georgia, Auburn unincorporated area.
Although I am not a Christian religiously, I am a kind of Buddhist, but was raised by a Christian mom, and we always made a big deal about Christmas. I love it all. I just usually don’t have much time or energy to bake my former 40 dozen cookies, many cakes, tarts and other goodies, or decorate my house like my mom did. I have all the stuff to do that, a basement room half full of boxes, but I do try to be festive.
Though we’re off sugar, and my husband is on a very low salt diet, I will find a way to make some goodies. I’m looking into making a sour cream apple, raisin, and walnut coffee cake for Christmas morning by the fireplace, to open presents. And I will still make our traditional from scratch oyster stew for Christmas even dinner. I serve that with fresh French bread and a fresh salad, and if I can, some kind of goodie for desert.
We will have some presents under the tree, and will probably go to a movie or play a DVD in the afternoon to kick back and enjoy the fire in the fireplace, cats on our laps, and the company of each other. One thing about being mostly retired, is our sweet time together. We may go up into the mountains and enjoy a little village or see snow if we have any by that time between Christmas and New Years. The Appalachian Mountains are so beautiful.
I see my friends busily dashing around making themselves exhausted trying to fulfill everyone else’s wishes, please all the relatives, make the big piles of presents under the tree, making the huge feasts, using up their credit cards, and in general ‘doing Christmas’. I used to do that. It was fun. I gained 10 lbs. eating the sweet cookies which usually never came off again. I gave everyone I knew a present, and sent out over 400 cards.
Now I think – everything I take out of those boxes has to go back in, and I just take what really touches my sense of beauty and fun. I gather some special Christmas plates, bowls, little dishes, and cups, some little snowmen decorations and a wreath or two. A few strings of lights go up and around. I clip some greens from the holly bushes and bay leaves for color. I wrap a few gifts, and call it good. Then I take my time to call old friends, write cards, or visit here and there. I make things from the garden and provide herbs and some of my products to who need them and will use them.
Today is our Living History Society’s “Thanksmas” feast, combining Christmas and Thanksgiving parties. This year we are including the personnel from the park – Fort Yargo is a state park and they help us all year in our re-enacting. And the “Friends of the Park” who help so much funding us and providing things we need to do our living history. So we’re expecting about 60 people. I’m bringing little baby turkey sandwiches from a turkey I roasted on Thursday. And I’ll make a giant salad some of which will come from my garden. I dress out in Scottish 1790 attire. This means tartan skirt and shawl, embroidered vest, white apron and mob cap, and a specially embroidered outside pocket that holds all my things I’d otherwise put in a little purse – an accessory unique to that era. Women didn’t have attached pockets in that era. But it will be cold so under it all will be a number of layers of clothing period correct. And on top of it a full length bright red cape with hood. We go in style.
All the accoutrements of the holidays are the beauty of our culture, beautiful, meaningful, and the bright spot at the beginning of winter. However you celebrate the turning of the year, the winter solstice, the Christian miracle, or other religious beliefs, I wish you good cheer, miracles, beauty, full tummies, good health and the love of everyone around you. That seems to me to be the best part.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year 2019
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