Thursday, May 28, 2009

Herb Spiral

Now that the Lavender is in bloom the herb spiral is looking more majestic.

Starting at the top: Lavender, Lemon Verbena, Sage, Trailing Rosemary, Thyme, Oregano, Zatar, Chamomile, Flat leave parsley, Parsley Aphrodite, Trailing Germander, Violas, Cilantro, Bee Balm, Borage, Mojito Mint, Persian Mint and a volunteer CA poppy! Not everything has grown, some are just barely sprouting....I'm hoping that once the rest of the herbs grow, the spiral will be completely full of green, life-sustaining, tasty herbs.

The theory of the herb spiral is this: Put the herbs that need well-drained soil at the top and the ones that need lots of moisture on the bottom. Put herbs that need more sun on the sunny side. Water at the top and the water will spiral down to the bottoms. Some people put a little pond at the bottom of the spiral.

The spiral makes use of vertical space, so there is room for LOTS of different plants.

Our spiral is constructed out of broken clay roof tiles that I bought from Urban Ore.

Herbs have many anti-cancer properties, so I try to grab a fistful and put them in my tea infusions, scrambled eggs, salads, crock pot beans, etc.

Here is a view of the entire herb spiral:

Here is a photo of the Hyssop:

Edible violas provide a pop of color:

Chamomile in bloom:

Coyolxauqui dancing next to the Hyssop:

Garden Spring 2009

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Chicken Coop: The First Incarnation

While Malucho recharges the camera, I thought I should post this early photo, from last fall. I think maybe August. I was on CraigsList and saw someone offering a rabbit hutch for sale.

I brought it home, and Malucho gave it a pretty thorough makeover, though you can't necessarily see all the details.

She dismantled the entire coop (back down to lumber), power-washed it, stained it, added panels all around to contain the bedding and offer some protection. She painted all of these, cut two more plywood panels to cover the wire on the floor of the coop, so as to prevent drafts and to give the chicks something comfy to walk on, stained those and added handles for easy removal, installed hooks and eyes to latch the lid shut.

One thing that works really well about this set-up is that it's easy to clean. I flip open the lid, get out my little green bucket (the one provided by the city for my kitchen waste) scoop the pine shavings and chicken poop out, using one of those spatulas designed for kitty litter. The stained plywood bottom gives me a smooth clean surface so I can scrape off any crustiness. It takes about five minutes to clean it all out, and then put in fresh pine bedding. I empty the bucket into the compost, go back to the coop and pull out the metal tray underneath, that catches the stuff that slips through between the two bottoms, that's not quite another bucket full. Add that to the compost, and we have a clean coop.

Sometimes I leave the lid open while the chickens are out playing, to air it all out. Sometimes I tie sprigs of pigweed or dandelion greens from the wires inside, for their later dining pleasure.

I've noticed that if the chickens are in the coop while the lid is open, they then get VERY spooked if I close the lid. I think it means they think there's a hawk swooping down on them.

The coop didn't stay looking this way for too long: Malucho re-tooled the whole thing again, but we're waiting on those photos.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Why Queermaculture? Ktrion's take.

Because reading The Omnivore's Dilemma makes me roll my eyes at the re-glorification of American manhood. (ditto Escape and World War Z). Because Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is a lesson in compulsory heterosexuality.

Because we want to attract birds, bees, butterflies, and fairies. Because queer community makes the world go 'round. Because Brown is the new Green. Because anti-cancer plants are an organizing principal in our garden and herb spiral. Because you can get female trees with male branches grafted on. Queer, baby!

Thursday, May 21, 2009


Ktrion scored us a brand new Smith and Hawkin's compost bin on Craig's List. Now we have two, one for new compost ("feed me") and one for compost that is further along. We'll harvest out of the second bin, while we feed the first. I've never understood how people get to use their compost if they are continually feeding their pile. Anyway, I'm hopeful that our new system will provide us with a bounty of rich, dark, crumbly earth.

While Ktrion went to Castro Valley to pick up the Craig's list find, I built us a a make-shift shed out of a few pallets we had in the garage. The shed will provide shade for the two compost bins.

Bonus: the blue paint provides a nice back drop to my potted plants.


This is a photo of what our back area looked like in December 2008. The retaining wall was failing and the concrete was in the process of being removed.

Ktrion's dad provided directions on how to use a hammer to find the "sweet spot" so the concrete would break in two.

Our back area—once ugly concrete— is now home to the following plants: A Meyer Lemon tree, Santa Rosa Weeping Plum tree, Kumquat tree, Fruiting Rose, Passion flower vine, Ceonothus, Nopal, Yarrow, Tree Collard, Lilac, Rue, Spanish Lavender, Borage, and clover. And, now, it feels alive. All this in about 6 months! It's going to be cool to see what it looks like in another year, when the trees begin to grow. If all goes as planned, the passion flower vine will cover the back fence and give us a bit of privacy from the neighbors in the back.

Red Clover

The red clover we planted under the new plum tree is doing a great job of attracting bees. It is also suppressing weeds, keeping the soil moist, and when we turn it under, it will provide nitrogen to the soil. The chickens graze on it occasionally, too. So, yes, we think it is working out pretty well so far. We're a bit unclear, though, about when to turn it under and start a new crop.

Attracting Orioles

Yesterday, in an effort to attract orioles to our oriole feeder, I sliced an orange in half and screwed it to the top board of an old fence. Inspired by Pluck and Feather's mom's teacup bird feeder, I took a old wood salad bowl, glued it to the fence, and filled it with water. Voila! A bird bath.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

NetEvangelizing the QueermaCult

Tonight I cooked dinner, which I rarely do: Malucho is the Top Chef. I'm usually sous chef or clean up crew. I made a frittata with chard and feta and a small onion. When Malucho makes it, we call it "Chardakopia" because it's like spanokpita but with chard instead of phyllo dough. (recipe came from our old neighbor). I did it from a cookbook, but with a few (ill-advised) shortcuts: I didn't clean the kitchen first, I didn't chop the chard small enough, and I had the heat on the stove turned up way too high. (nearly burned the onions) One funny thing is that Malucho always beats the eggs in this cute little "chile bowls" we have and so i did that too, even though there were really too many eggs for that size bowl. It was yummy though: those delicioso eggs can be very forgiving.

Malucho took a couple of slices over to new neighbors J&K. When I was on the deck this afternoon, I got to hear their hammers bringing down the roof, along with Cuban guy's drumming. It really is the music of our neighborhood and made me very happy.

One thing I have to watch out for is trying to drag all my friends into the permaCult. And getting carried away. Fortunately I have mountains of grading to do right now, so other then getting a second composter tomorrow, I can't start any new projects.

But I eye the empty yard next door and fantasize about goats. Cute silly goats.

Later this summer I'll be taking a "beneficial beasts in the garden" class at Merritt College. I really want bees. Ever I read Sue Hubbell's A Country Year and Broadsides from the Other Orders.

What I planted this season

Chayote, Zucchini, Tomatoes, Fava Beans, Scarlet Runner Beans, Spaghetti Squash, Quinoa, Sunflowers, Sunchokes, Basil, Parsley, Beets, Carrots, Radishes, Quelites, New Mexico Green Chile, JalapeƱos, Habaneros, Eggplant, Bell Peppers, Peas, Arugula, Chard, Strawberries, Chives, Mesclun lettuces....

The chayote is doing awesome. Everyone tells me to watch out...that one plant can grow huge and take over an entire yard. I'm not worried about that, though. I can eat a lot of chayote and my garden looks mostly bare and too controlled. I'd love to have something that looks a bit excessive.

I'm also really excited about my beans. The favas are already flowering with beautiful white flowers and purple centers. The scarlet runner beans are running out of space to grow. Next year, I will provide a much taller trellis.

My eggplants and peppers aren't flourishing and look a bit straggly. I'll coddle them along and hope they take off.