The joy of spring

I kneel in the raspberry rows, pulling rebar from the ground to protect children’s bare feet, their original purpose of holding stairs long past.

Ten thousand bees surround me, exploring the new blooms. They each stop to say hello. Are you a flower? Can you feed me? Are you useful?

A sudden cry of delight from my daughter above. An eagle soars past, so close to her she can her the wind passing over its wings. “Daddy, it’s singing! The wings are singing!”

Surprise growth

Always surprised by random giant heads of cauliflower poking out of the hugel beds. Still doing lots of fermentation experiments, from my wife’s amazing sourdough bread to crazy-flavored batches of kombucha. Her creativity extended to gift-giving, too, with each of us receiving a harvest bag made from our own discarded jeans.


This month’s highlights:

  • June’s cold weather finally broke towards the end of the month, giving much-needed heat to the corn, tomatoes, and peppers.
  • We threw our first annual Summer Solstice party BYOLS (bring your own local stuff) with everyone wearing all-white. Much fun, great relationships (true wealth), and a celebration of everything hyper-local…from kombucha to kale.
  • Camping with kids = no sleep for anyone but good lifelong memories.
  • Hand-watering got to the point where we reestablished the fully automated irrigation in all it’s geekiness glory. A few years ago we repurposed the fancy lawn irrigation controller to control water dosages to all our veggie beds and food forest with an A/B switch to move from our neighborhood water (shared well system) to our cisterns holding harvested rainwater. Now with a few hours of patching work the full system is up and running again.
  • Newly refilled sheds for of green firewood (not to burn this winter, but the following) give me a good feeling of preparedness for ourselves and our neighbors.
  • Serious growth on the fruit trees should mean our first significant harvest this fall. Hooray!

Spring fixes

There must be something about March that calls for stuff to break, wear out, or just simply come due for some upkeep. This last month we’ve been in constant fix-it mode…while taking the all important breaks to see that elusive winter sun here in the Pacific Northwest.

Some of the projects weren’t much fun, like fixing basement foundation cracks due to flooding. While I sympathize for my fellow gardeners down in the severe California drought, up here we are experiencing way too much water. Other projects I’m not quite sure how to fix yet, like a rain garden swale that does a great job of capturing runoff water but drains so slowly that the plants have to survive in deep standing water for days on end. To be fair, we *have* had a significant amount of rain.

But most projects this past month have been enjoyable, especially working on them with my children. Whether it was building a chick brooder from scrap with my six-year-old, or scything the rye cover crop on the hugelkultur bed with my 11-year old, I am a lucky man with great kids like these (true wealth!). Other projects, like pruning fruit trees or re-sinking all the bamboo guides we use to train our raspberry rows, I did solo, often in the rain. With good rain weather gear, you forget about getting wet and slip into a meditative state out there; a great way to detox from the stress of work.

And speaking of true wealth (relationships), this spring finds me bartering with my neighbors again, helping to kick start their veggie and herb seedlings under our grow lights and greenhouse so the entire neighborhood gets a jump on food production. Love it.

Summertime happiness…

Happiness is a warm scytheWhen you live in the Pacific Northwest, you get used to thinking of “summer” based on the calendar alone, as you certainly can’t count on the weather to inform you. But despite overcast skies, colder temperatures, and drizzle, we have some spectacular days/weeks that give you a glimpse of what’s to come each July-August.

These glimpses also offer occasions where I reflect on true happiness, and it reminds me that each day I can choose happiness whether it’s dreary outside or not.

Taking a break from our normal highlights/lowlights update, many of you know that recently I’ve been reflecting on happiness instead.

Happiness is:

  • A sharp scythe
  • Colorful foxglove rising among blueberries
  • Healthy bees
  • A bicycle ride through blossoming cherry trees with your daughter in tow (and not needing rain protection gear!)
  • Early morning sessions at dawn of moving meditation in the pasture, clearing paths
  • Wildflowers spreading along pathways in a food forest
  • Watching your son take 45 minutes to simply collect eggs as he’s carrying on extended conversations with the chickens…in their language
  • A greenhouse full of chili pepper plants
  • Calendula flower petals finding their way into your salad…medicine that tastes good!
  • Finding carefully piled collections of natural materials curated by a six year old, ready to make another fairy house
  • Hugelkultur beds actively producing crops with minimal watering
  • The blessing of viewing Mount Rainier from above the clouds
  • Finding semi-wild elderberry trees with bright red berries…medicine growing on trees!

True Wealth; True Health

True Wealth – Winter Warmth

Our heat (and sun) is leaving us too quickly for my taste. I find myself going outside every chance I get while taking work phone calls to enjoy the last days of our sunshine and mild weather.

Hoping we retain enough heat in the next few weeks for our chili peppers to ripen on the vine but they’re all huge so finishing them off inside would not be so bad.

This month’s learnings to share with both highlights and lowlights…

Beauty Set Into Strength


  • An appreciation of true wealth (2-3 winter’s worth of good Douglas Fir stored) and true health (a year’s worth of garlic in storage).
  • The entrepreneurial spirit I see in my son with his care and responsibility for our chickens and his egg business
  • The joy on my daughter’s face as her toes wiggle out another huge potato. We had several 5 gallon buckets worth of gorgeous red-white-blue volunteer potatoes despite planting no new eyes this past year.
  • New woodsheds were made by a local woodworker father-son crew and purchased via barter. Love barter deals!
  • Steady supply of salad through the heat weeks where normally everything bolts. My wife’s brilliant idea was to create a new bed in the shade, and the lettuce transplants there did wonderfully!

True Health – Garlic and Sun-Dried Tomatoes


  • Almost blowing up myself and my house. Nicked the copper feed line for my generator’s propane tanks when trimming the bamboo surrounding it. One little spark from my shears before I got the tanks shut down would have been a disaster.
  • Another failed corn year (four in a row!) after a promising start. Think my problem this year was lack of water. Will push out drip irrigation to the corn next year and tie into my timer system.
  • Actually, it’s hard to think of many lowlights from this past month. It’s gorgeous and pleasant most every day outside this time of year and we’re not suffering from the droughts plaguing the rest of the country. Sunshine, blue skies, white clouds, gorgeous mountains, and deep healthy forests. It all goes a long way to erase work stress, crop failures, and any other problems. Feeling very grateful at this time of year as we head into Harvest Festivals and the celebration of this season’s bounty.

US debt crisis explained

Take responsibility for yourself, your family, and your own country by watching this excellent brief summary of how exactly we got ourselves into this mess.

And then start working on the solution. We need you!


The most important thing in the world.

Keep Calm & Carry On

I have British friends who use this old catchphrase often and many times tongue-in-cheek. Which made me smile all the more when I saw the nearby graphic while reading one of my favorite blogs, Little Homestead in the City.

As we are ramping up our local efforts to build resilient neighborhoods on our island, it’s a good reminder to read about the history of victory gardens and related sustainability projects that our grandparents were quite familiar with, and that are becoming new again.

In her post Anais asks her readers their preparedness levels in these areas (at least one of which you’ll see we’ve not listed in our categories to the right – oops): Food, Water, Fuel Energy, Sanitation, Alternative Currency, Transportation, Communications, Medical & First Aid, Survival, Security.

I’ll prepare a future post regarding our sanitation plans in low or no power scenarios.

Are electric cars a dead end?

Jackson Harper at Transition Voice (part of the international Transition Network movement) recently asked himself that question and offers some interesting insights.

While our Nissan Leaf is still battling with my home-built electric bicycle for top billing for my commute around town, I think James Kunstler is correct that our “happy motoring” days are numbered. A favorite recent quote from Kunster:

We are ignoring the most obvious intelligent responses to this predicament, namely, shifting our focus to walkable communities and public transit, especially rebuilding the American passenger railroad system – without which, I assure you, we will be most regrettably screwed ten years from now.

Despite the private investment in our railways by Gates and Buffet, we’re seeing minimal federal government interest, which is a shame as we’ll need it unless we want the rest of the world to pass us by (at high speeds).