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Saturday, October 15, 2011

All Souls Day, Firewood and Tea

With Halloween and All Souls Day upon us, we think about dear ones that are no longer with us, about their experiences in life, about their understanding of nature, seasons, life forces, and life realities. Though Grandmother was an educated woman who insisted on wearing matching gloves and shoes, she knew more about workings of nature that most of people interested in sustainable living in my generation. She knew how to brine seemingly random mushrooms that Grandfather brought from the forest each fall. She knew how to put up enough food to last us all winter - in an urban apartment size of a postage stamp. She mended clothes, washed them by hand, sewn her own dresses and managed to serve a hot meal made from scratch three times per day while working full time away from home.

Sustainble Living in October - Replenishing

The air ringing with blue and golden light, first frost on its way - and harvest is all around us.  And what we take from the land, must be returned and replenished - so as squashes, tomatoes, tomatillos, beets and potatoes are leaving the ground, compost and mulch are coming it. In gardening we depend on animals to bring fertility to the soil - and it is impossible to maintain fertile soils sustainably otherwise. Manure and feathers bring nitrogen and phosphorus and other micro-elements needed in soil. Organic matter comes from animal bedding. What comes out after cleaning the shed goes in the garden - mostly in the fall and winter months, to have a good long time to decompose and integrate in the soil in time for the growing season. For those who live without animals, it is worth figuring out how to bring in an occasional load of goat (or lama/sheep/rabbit) manure - other manures may be very weedy (i.e. horse manure) or event contain salt (i.e. commercial cow manure is quite toxic to soil). Attracting song birds to your garden is another approach, though of course their contribution to manuring your garden will be rather small.
Worms are good creatures to have, of course, and to encourage worms we occasionally put our kitchen waste under the mulch in the garden, cover it with large metal lid (such as trash can lid) and place a heavy rock on top - to discourage skunks and racoons from exploring. Earth worms get a very good in-situ meal that way, and all nutrients are delivered directly to the garden, none are lost to leaching like they are in a typical compost pile.

Storing garden bounty is another seasonal challenge - and we just happily converted a vacant corner in the well house to  root cellar. Not an ideal setting, but good enough with stable temperatures (currently in the low 50-s) and moderate humidity (70%) it is adequate for potatoes, squash, pumpkins, onions and garlic. A bucket of water is readily available so it can poured on the cement floor to increase humidity to a more desirable 80+%
Now is also busy time for knitting and sewing - all the warm things needed for winter, especially for children! Woolens, a European invention, lovely, very pricey, oh-so-wonderful warm and thin - this year are to be home-made from scratch using merino wool fabric - a project a bit too ambitious but hopefully doable. Sweaters for early morning forays to the goats, to the wetlands, to the clothes line... Mittens, felted for added warmth - and knitted thick wool pants to keep the little one shielded from the wind and nippy temperatures. A wealth of free patterns for knitters from Drops Design; including wonderfully warm and practical children patterns.