Wednesday Vignette: Dreaming Trees

Ficus afghanistanica 'Silver Lyre' 2014

Ficus afghanistanica ‘Silver Lyre’ planted 2014

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“Even if I knew that tomorrow the world

would go to pieces,

I would still plant my apple tree.”

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Martin Luther

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Star Magnolia 2015

Star Magnolia planted 2015

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“My own heroes are the dreamers,

those men and women who tried to make the world

a better place than when they found it,

whether in small ways or great ones.

Some succeeded, some failed,

most had mixed results…

but it is the effort that’s heroic, as I see it.

Win or lose,

I admire those who fight the good fight.”

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George R.R. Martin

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Crepe Myrtel 2015

Crepe Myrtle planted 2015

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“Most of the important things in the world

have been accomplished

by people who have kept on trying

when there seemed to be no hope at all.”

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Dale Carnegie

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september-21-2016-rain-013

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2016

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Do you plant trees?  Planting a tree, whether for yourself or someone else, is one of the most powerful gestures one can make to assure a happy and healthy future.  Here are just a few of the trees we’ve planted over the last five years.

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The Arbor  Day Foundation sponsors several worthwhile programs to ensure that more community trees are planted each year.  The one which has my interest right now is “Neighborwoods Month.” October is a great time of year for planting trees in our region.   

Perhaps you will consider planting a tree or two of your own between now and the end of October. 

Here is the child’s tree dedication prayer recited in Philadelphia at the planting of a new community tree: 

” We dedicate this tree to beauty, usefulness, and comfort. 

May our lives grow in beauty, usefulness, and comfort to others

even as these trees expand their leafy boughs. 

Let us strive to protect and care for them

and they may so be enjoyed by all people…”

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september-21-2016-trees-009

 

 

 

 

 

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Five Photos, Five Stories: Dormant Isn’t Dead

May 20, 2015 garden 014

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After our unusually long and cold winter, we’ve been concerned about which plants survived and which plants didn’t.  We’ve been making the rounds of the garden for weeks now looking for signs of life from plants which normally survive winter here just fine, but have not yet leafed out this spring.

There is an ancient Jasmine vine which has grown along the railing by our kitchen door for decades.  Much of it died back over the winter of 2014, but somehow came back with new growth by last summer.  Blooms were scarce, but it survived.  We are still watching for signs of life from that Jasmine vine this spring; watching for a single green leaf to show us it is still alive.

Our potted Hydrangeas suffered as well.  I believe they began to bud too early and were hit by a late freeze.  I check every few days for a sign of new growth from the roots.

One thing the garden teaches us is that dormant is not dead.   Many plants simply need a rest to gather their strength to grow again.

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May 20, 2015 garden 013

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Deciduous trees rest from autumn until earliest spring, when their buds swell and eventually open into new leaves.  We learn their rhythm early on in life, if we live in a region which has winter, and trust the process.

But what happens when things don’t go as expected?  What happens when it takes weeks longer than we think it might for those first leaves to show?

Most years our figs are quite leafed out by now.  But they have taken a hit of cold for two winters running.  Huge old trees have stood starkly naked all through spring and into this stretch of early summer heat.

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May 20, 2015 garden 012~

And now one by one, we are finding signs of life.  For some, new shoots are appearing directly from the roots.  Others have budded on trunks and branches, tiny leaves finally emerging into the warmth of May.

There are two potted fig trees, one on the front patio and the other on the back deck, still giving us no sign of life.  I’m still hopeful that one day soon we’ll see those first leaves appear.

After all, dormant is not dead.

Life goes deep within the tissues of a plant sometimes, into its rhizome or seed; into its deep roots while everything green and growing withers away.  We have to know these cycles and work with them.

Cyclamen die back in spring to rest for the summer.  They will sprout again in autumn to give flowers through many more winters to come.

Begonias and Caladiums may do the same in autumn, taking a winter rest before springing back to life with a single leaf to herald their awakening.

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This favorite Rex Begonia has leafed out from a bare rhizome again.  It likes its protected and shaded spot at the base of a tree.

This favorite Rex Begonia had leafed out from a bare rhizome again in this photo taken last June. It has gone dormant on me many times over the years, and I’m waiting for new leaves to appear on it now.  It died back in the house in early spring, but I trust it will spring to life again soon.

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Sometimes we need to do the same thing.  Going dormant for a while can do us a lot of good.  We give ourselves a chance to rest and rejuvenate.  When we’re ready to get back in the game, we are somehow richer and stronger.  We’ve taken quiet time to brood and plan.

We need, sometimes, to think about what is most important to us, and to re-define our priorities.  We can’t just keep going on forever at full steam, like a perpetual motion machine.

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Native ferns just awakening from their winter dormancy.

Native ferns just awakening from their winter dormancy.

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Because we are alive, our life is governed by the rhythms of nature.  We have our own rhythms, too; of  breathing and sleep, activity and rest.

Several blogging friends have touched on this issue, lately.  They are long time writers who have expressed their need for time away… time for a rest.  I respect them so much for listening to their own hearts and taking the break they need.

Writing is a very peculiar pursuit.  Those of us who feel compelled to write each day do so because WE need to do it.  We all have a purpose and some message we need to share.

We don’t write for our audience so much as we write for ourselves, and hope someone else finds what we write useful or amusing, instructive or thought provoking.

We all know when we’ve written enough for a while, and need to take some quiet time to rejuvenate our creative spark before speaking up again.  And that is simply the nature of things.

And no, I’m not saying this to preface an announcement of my own; only to say to my blogging friends who need that break, that I understand your point of view.  And to remind you:  Dormant is not dead. 

We know you are still very much alive, and hope that one day soon you’ll feel like it is time to grow active once again.  We miss the beauty you bring to the world.

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The last bloom on the clump of Iris Barbara brought me last May.  We have enjoyed them enormously this spring!

The last bloom on the clump of Iris Barbara brought me last May. We have enjoyed them enormously this spring!

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Barbara, at  Silver in the Barn, invited me to join the Five Photos Five Stories challenge, and this is my second post in the series.

This is a simple challenge:  To participate, you simply post a photo each day for five consecutive days, and tell a story about each photo.  The story can be truth or fiction, poetry or prose.  Each day one must also nominate a fellow blogger to participate in the challenge.

And today, I am inviting another Virginia blogger, Dor, of Virginia Views, to join the challenge.  Dor tells wonderful stories about her life in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia on her blog, and I know she will have a few hilarious tales to tell for this challenge.  I enjoy her point of view, and hope she will play along with  Barbara and me. 

In fact I hope you will visit both Dor and Barbara, both of whom are very entertaining and generous story tellers.

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These Foxgloves looked so frost-bitten in March I thought they might be dead.  Just look at them now!  And yes, the Canna Lilies survived, the winter, too!

These Foxgloves looked so frost-bitten in March I thought they might be dead. Just look at them now! And yes, the Canna Lilies survived, the winter, too!

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The moral of the this story today is that we will gain a lot through patience and perseverance…. both with plants and with people.

When we keep the faith that spring will come to each of us in our own time, life rewards us with abundance.

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May 20, 2015 garden 008

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Woodland Gnome 2015

*   *   *

Five Photos, Five Stories: Hot

Five Photos, Five Stories: Perspective

Five Photos, Five Stories: Turtle Mama

Five Photos, Five Stories: Chocolate Cake

 

Still in the Garden

 

Beautiful tomatoes were grown in a friend's garden last. summer

Beautiful tomatoes were grown in a friend’s garden last. summer

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Hugh Roberts, who challenged us all to show what sits atop our Christmas tree, has chosen the Alzheimer’s Research UK research charity to receive his very generous  gift of L250 sterling.  Hugh pledged to give a pound to charity for each entry his challenge received from participants around the world.

I learned of Hugh’s challenge early on in December through fellow blogger Sue Vincent and chose to participate.   Hugh published his round up post earlier this week, with links to all participants, and the story behind his tree-top angel, Angela.

Hugh chose to support the Alzheimer’s Research charity because that is the disease which took both his grandmother and his mother from him. It runs in his family; as degenerative brain disease runs in many of ours.

We have our own legacy of Parkinson’s disease and stroke casting a shadow in our own family. It is absolutely heartbreaking to witness the elders of our family, who we love, and respect, wrestle with these devastating changes to their lives.

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Flowers, vegetables and herbs grow together in my friends' deck garden.

Flowers, vegetables and herbs grow together in my friends’ deck garden.

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Which is why I stumbled across the wonderful book, 100 Simple Things You Can Do to Prevent Alzheimer’s and Age-Related Memory Loss, by Jean Carper, earlier this summer. Although the suggestions in this book are wide ranging, and include physical exercise, community involvement, sports and games; the suggestions always return to nutrition.jean-carper-book-large  By the way, gardening is also a wonderful way to keep one’s brain healthy and active !

Food is a very personal subject for us all. Food is comfort. Food is tradition. Food connects us to our family’s roots. Food is recreation and food is survival.

It is often only when facing a serious health challenge, whether diabetes, blood pressure, or cancer that we come around to realizing that food is also our best medicine.

Remember that the first humans were given a garden to meet all of their needs. Indigenous people the world over, who are generally very healthy and long-lived, still understand how to “live off of the land.”

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My friend fashioned this lovely dragon fly ornament for her garden.  Creating works of art also protects and strengthens our brains.

My friend fashioned this lovely dragon fly ornament for her garden. Creating works of art also protects and strengthens our brains.

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Physicians and medical researchers establish a clear link between what we eat and how long we live. Our quality of life is a direct result of our nutrition. And I learned this summer, from Jean Carper’s wonderful book, that eating the right foods also protects our brain from Alzheimer’s, dementia and other degenerative brain diseases.

Researchers and practicing physicians have proven over and again that plant based foods are the ones which heal us. Animal based foods feed the diseases which kill us and destroy our brains.

This is jarring for most Americans and Europeans, who eat meat, eggs, fish and dairy multiple times every day. Our traditional meals and favorite foods are all centered on animal products.

And yet, learning to eat and enjoy plant based meals is always the prescription for good health. We must eat from “the garden.”   We not only need to eat plant based foods, but also choose those which don’t come laden with the agricultural chemicals which will poison us.  Locally grown food, grown organically, nourishes us and heals us.

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My friend coaxes fruit, vegetables, flowers and herbs from her steep slope.

My friend coaxes fruit, vegetables, flowers and herbs from her steeply sloping garden.

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After reading Jean’s book this summer, I compiled a simple half sheet list of “Foods Which Protect Our Brains” for my parents, and shared it with my siblings. There is abundant research to back up the healing powers of each food on the list

Since then, another close family member began treatment for a very aggressive cancer. One of her survival strategies has been to follow a vegan, and mostly raw, diet. And it is helping her to remain active and energized as she continues with the other treatments her doctors prescribe.

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Herbs hold the power to heal us.  Our own garden in July-

Herbs hold the power to heal us. Our own garden in July-

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Dr. Joel Fuhrman, whose book, Eat To Live, I read several years ago, realizes that he is a “doctor of last resort.” Most of his patients would never consider following his diet advice unless it was their last hope of survival.Eat to Live

What is that radical advice? To under-consume calories. He recommends a mostly raw diet of only selected vegetables, little or no oil or butter, whole grains, and no sugar. A typical meal includes a huge bowl of salad chopped vegetables dressed with a home-made fat free dressing.

Dr. Fuhrman has since generated cookbooks and a number of additional titles including: The End of Diabetes, Super Immunity, Disease Proof Your Child, and The End of Dieting. His advice is based in his own practice with terminally ill patients,  as well as up to date research in disease prevention.  Dr Fuhrman’s first book, Eat To Live, clearly describes how animal foods create and feed those diseases which destroy our bodies and brains.

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Dill in our garden last July

Dill in our garden last July

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I “returned to the garden” in 1986, giving up all flesh foods, for a variety of reasons. I won’t bore you with those reasons, but they were far ranging. And I’ve never once been tempted to add meat back into my diet. I haven’t been as successful with eliminating dairy, although I continue to reduce the amounts we consume. 2015 may be the year for that final shift, however.

I prefer to focus on learning new ways to prepare delicious meals rich in colorful vegetables and fruits, whole grains, nuts, and herbs.

Our creators (Elohim, from the Hebrew) gave us every single thing we need for healthy living, and we honor them, and ourselves, by living vibrant, healthy lives.

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Fig tree in our garden, August 2014

Fig tree in our garden, August 2014

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Please allow me to share the list of brain healthy foods I compiled for my parents this past summer, based on reading Jean Carper’s book, 100 Simple Things You Can Do to Prevent Alzheimer’s and Age-Related Memory Loss.

Adding these simple and delicious foods to our diets in greater quantity may protect our brains, and our lives, for many more years to come.

Foods to Eat Frequently

To Heal and Protect Our Brains:

Coffee, Tea, Cocoa (Caffeine)

  Fresh Vegetables (5+ daily)

Spinach, Chard, Kale, Tomato

Nuts:  Almonds, Hazelnuts, Pecans, Walnuts, Cashews

Fresh Fruit (5+daily)

2 Apples each day (or apple juice)

Berries: Blueberries, Blackberries   Strawberries, Cranberries 

Cherries

Juice: Pomegranate, Apple

Cranberry, Purple Grape

Olives, Olive Oil 

Whole grains

Cinnamon

    Eggs, Fish, Fish oils

Dark Chocolate

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Our pear crop, August 2014

Our pear crop, August 2014

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Woodland Gnome 2015

Figs

August 28 2013 garden 021Figs are on my mind.

This is the time of year when our fig trees ripen their fruit.

August 28 2013 garden 020

Last summer our fig trees were loaded.  A friend and I picked repeatedly, and had a steady supply of fruit for over a month.

(There is a recipe for Fig Pickles at the end of the post.)

This year I’ve picked here and there since July, but haven’t gotten more than a handful at a time.

August 28 2013 garden 031Today I got lucky.

The variety growing here when we moved in stays green right up until the moment of ripeness, when the fruit swells and turns a yellowish green.

July 24 2013 garden photos 012The inside is pink to red, depending on ripeness.  This isn’t a super sweet fig, but is delicious broiled with a little shaving of salty cheese on top. I favor a Tuscano cheese, but anything in the Parmesan family of cheeses is delicious.

This fig came home in a 1 gallon pot last summer.

This fig came home in a 1 gallon pot last summer.  Its figs are brown.  It started the season with small green figs, but lost them along the way.

I’ve read that figs which stay green when ripe have an added protection from hungry animals who might take them as they ripen.   Birds only peck at the figs I’ve left on the bush way too long so they split open.  BUT, the deer have been molesting the fig trees this year, grazing leaves and ripping stems and branches.

July 5 garden at sunset 025

This fig tree grew so much in spring that its branches toppled over, changing the shape of the entire plant. New branches have sprouted along the now horizontal fallen branches. It grew quickly with the abundant rain, and was knocked over by the windstorms in June.

I gave pieces of one of these broken branches to some gardening friends, who rooted them successfully, and now have small trees.

The tall, heavy branches, fallen over in early summer, are sprouting new vertical growth.  This beautiful tree just keeps getting bigger and bigger.

The tall, heavy branches, fallen over in early summer, are sprouting new vertical growth. This beautiful tree just keeps getting bigger and bigger.

Visiting a fig loving friend yesterday evening, I commented on her ripe figs.  We looked more closely.  Her small bush, covered in ripening figs only days ago, had only two little figs still attached.  We found the gaps where squirrels had gotten in through her netting.

A well protected fig in my friends garden, still was robbed by a squirrel who found an opening in the netting.

A well protected fig in my friends garden, still was robbed by a squirrel who found an opening in the netting.

We both feel  that our gardening efforts this year are chiefly for the benefit of hungry squirrels and deer.  What a disappointment after an entire season of protecting and nurturing her new fig, planted only last fall, to find the fruit stolen.  I’ve begun to wonder whether netting simply draws the squirrels attention, and signals something really good must be kept inside the enclosure…

August 28 2013 garden 034

We have just received two new “SIlver Lyre” fig trees from Plant Delights.  This is a newly offered variety of Afghan Fig.  I like the beautiful, lacy silver-toned leaves.  These are advertised to grow quickly to a 20′ shrub, and I plan to plant them in the newly sunny area of our forest where the oak trees fell this spring.

An Afghan Fig, newly arrived in the mail, ready to pot up.

An Afghan Fig, newly arrived in the mail, ready to pot up.

They will quickly provide a bit of privacy from the street, but will never grow tall enough to create a hazard.  In fact, they are supposed to be very sturdy in wind.  I hope to one day harvest a few figs from them… If I can manage to keep the squirrels away.

Rick Austin, in his book, Secret Garden of Survival, describes a method of planting a “guild” of plants around a new fruit tree.  Some of the plants bring up nutrients from the soil, some are good companion plants for the tree, and some plants protect the newly planted tree from critters.  Not brave enough to plant an apple or persimmon, which I KNOW our squirrels would strip, I plan to try his method when planting these figs later in the fall.

Garlic Chives

Garlic Chives

I’ll surround the new figs with daffodil bulbs to create a wall of poisonous bulbs and roots against the voles, garlic or garlic chives to slow down the deer, and perhaps some Comfrey to enrich the soil and create that extra wall of distraction for the deer.  They never touch my Comfrey or garlic chives, both of which attract bees and butterflies.

Comfrey, a perennial herb with tremendous healing properties, is an excellent herb for improving the soil.  Its long tap root brings up nutrients from deep in the Earth.  Its leaves are an excellent addition to compost to build fertility.

Comfrey, a perennial herb with tremendous healing properties, is an excellent herb for improving the soil. Its long tap root brings up nutrients from deep in the Earth. Its leaves are an excellent addition to compost to build fertility.

These little trees will go into pots tomorrow to let them grow a bit beefier before I plant them out in the garden, after the first frost, probably in December.  The growers at Plant Delights had tremendous growth in their first year with “Silver Lyre”, and I will hope for the same results so these new trees fill out quickly.  They will grow quite wide, as figs do, so the guilds will extend several feet out from their trunks.  This will be an interesting process to watch unfold in the forest garden.August 21, 2013 close up garden 010

All photos by Woodland Gnome

Here is my favorite “Pickled Fig” recipe developed last autumn.  I made several batches, tweaking the recipe each time.  I’m hoping there is a large enough harvest to make them again in a few weeks!

Pickled Figs

6 c. sugar

1 cup boiling water

¾ c. white Sangria

½ c. red wine vinegar

1 TB ground cinnamon

1 TB ground allspice

1 Tsp. ground cloves

4 medium lemons, washed

6-8 chili peppers, green or red

20-30 ripe figs

(Boil a kettle of water for preparing the figs.  Have on hand about 3/4 c. of baking soda to sprinkle on the figs before they are cooked.)

1.  Measure the sugar into a dutch oven,  add 1 c. of water, and turn on medium heat.

2.  Wash and trim the figs. Place in a large ceramic bowl.  Sprinkle them with baking soda, and cover with boiling water.  Allow to soak for 10-12 minutes.

3.  Wash and thinly slice the lemons. Halve or quarter the slices, catching the juice.  Julienne the end pieces, which are mostly peel.   Add fruit and juice to the sugar mixture, along with the spices, Sangria, vinegar, and washed peppers.

4.  Rinse the figs in cool water, peel off any discolored skin, and slice the figs in halves or quarters as they are added to the sugar, lemon, and spice mix.

5.  Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes; allowing the syrup to thicken and the lemons to become translucent.

6.  Allow the mixture to sit, covered, for 12 to 24 hours.

7.  Reheat to boiling and can in glass jars.

More information on figs:

http://www.treesofjoy.com/fig-varieties-collection

http://www.spadespatula.com/2012/04/10/fig-varieties-common-fig-sounds-boring-but-isnt/

http://www.foodrepublic.com/2012/08/27/6-types-figs-try-right-now

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