2004 Forest Garden Diary-Blog

1524 NW 21st, Oklahoma City, at the southeast corner of North McKinley and NW 21st Street, an on-going experiment in urban permaculture

"Properly speaking, of course, there is no such thing as a return to nature, because there is no such thing as a departure from it. The phrase reminds one of the slightly intoxicated gentleman who gets up in his own dining room and declares firmly that he must be getting home." - G.K. Chesterton

"It is the main earthly business of a human being to make his home, and the immediate surroundings of his home, as symbolic and significant to his own imagination as he can." -G.K. Chesterton, The Coloured Lands

Better Times Cookbook | Justpeace | Better Times | BobWaldrop.net |Access to Energy Conservation | On Pilgrimage in Oklahoma City

For information about our plans for adapting our"urban homestead" to meet the looming challenges of peak oil, climate instability, and economic irrationality, see Gatewood Urban Homestead, the permaculture design for our home.

March 21, 2004 | April 6, 2004 | May 24, 2004 |

May 24, 2004

We harvested 201 garlic plants today, plus I left a few in the ground just to see what would happen. Tomorrow I am going to pull a couple of shallots and multiplying onions to see how they are doing. I also harvested the last of the peas and pulled the plants up. Last year I harvested the garlic in mid-June. My cousins in southwest Oklahoma tell me their wheat harvest is early by about two weeks, and this was confirmed in last week's Daily Oklahoman, which also reported that the Oklahoma wheat crop would be down at least 14% from previous estimates. This is not good news, not for Oklahoma farmers, and not for the world grain markets, as the world's grain harvest has been shrinking for four years. World grain consumption is now larger than the annual grain harvest, so grain storage has been reduced to only a few weeks supply as stocks have been drawn down to meet current demand.

Had a great breakfast today. 100% whole wheat pancakes, scrambled eggs and sausage, all Oklahoma products, bought through our Oklahoma Food Cooperative. The pancakes are very light, even though they are 100% whole wheat, they are actually lighter than my usual mix of white and whole-wheat flour. The flour is from Springhill Farms in Kiowa County, Oklahoma, and is ground by the Callen family. Here's my recipe:

2 cups whole wheat flour | 2-1/2 teaspoons baking powder | pinch salt | 2 tablespoons honey | 2 eggs, beaten | 2 cups milk | 2 tablespoons olive oil

Mix the dry ingredients, add the oil and mix, beat the eggs with the milk and add to dry ingredients, stir quickly. Let sit about 10 minutes, fry on a medium hot skillet in just a bit of oil. I fry it with a bit lower flame than I typically use with white flour pancakes. For this morning's recipe, I also had whole raw milk and used Honey Hill Farm honey. I made enough for 3 days as if anything the pancakes are better the next day. I ate mine with homemade mulberry jelly.

Which is another thing we've been doing, learning how to make jelly. Our first project was mulberry jelly. To harvest the mulberries, two of us hold a sheet underneath a branch, the third person vigorously shakes the branch. The ripe mulberries fall onto the sheet, from there we put them in a basket. Making the jelly was not rocket science. I used the recipe for blackberry jam that came with the box of pectin that I bought. The jam jelled just fine, and it tastes even better. Takes a lot of sugar though. I must learn more about how to do no-sugar-added jams and jellies. Tomorrow we start our first batch of mulberry wine. We are anticipating great harvests of sand plums, tree plums, blackberries, and peaches. Dewberries and boysenberries are still a bit stingy with their fruit, as are the clove currants, this is the first year we've seen any fruit from them, and its just a few. Next year will be another story. . . however.

The volunteer vetch is about past its prime in most areas. We have been pulling it and running a lawn mower over it to shred it and then using it as mulch. We nibbled on some of the green vetch seeds, and they were actually quite tasty, just a bit of sweetness, but we didn't follow through with the moderately tedious task of gathering and shelling enough pods to try them cooked. The vetch got along just fine with the garlic beds, and doesn't seem to have hurt the other alliums either.

We've been nibbling on strawberries and the occasional dewberry and I picked the first boysenberry today, it had turned color but wasn't quite all the way ripe.

99% of the bushes we planted earlier this spring are doing fine. There are 3 that seem to be struggling, and 3 that just haven't done anything. One of the apricots took forever to wake up, and one of the apricots I planted last fall has died. RIP. I thought we had lost the fig tree but it is coming on nicely, it took forever to wake up this spring.

I am planting sunflowers, blackeyed peas, and purple hulled peas in the spaces being vacated by the alliums (multiplying onions, shallots, garlic). I have five heirloom tomato plants, 2 of which are cherry tomatoes, planted along the trellis I put on the north side of two of the square foot gardening beds I made last year.

Since last we spoke, I have planted more herbs: mother of thyme, orange thyme, pineapple mint, winter savory, English thyme, and we have about 20 hot pepper plants doing fine: habanero, Caribbean, jalapeno, cayenne. I also have a bunch of parsnips. Now the interesting thing about them is that I planted them last fall, but they didn't sprout. Now they are coming up in several places, so we'll have some parsnips this year after all. The chard - rhubarb, fordhook giant - is doing great.. The parsnip leaves, by the way, are very attractive. People could plant parsnips just for the showy leaves, but they taste good too.

The elderberries are in full bloom, and look very beautiful with their white flowers. The first day lily opened up today, as have the first pink coneflowers. The grape vines are loaded. Contrary to the typical advice given to home gardeners, we have not pruned the grapes, because the most important purpose of the trellis is shade along the west side of the house. The grapes are an additional benefit. We may be sacrificing a bit of yield, but the comfort the shady trellis provides is important since we don't use air conditioning.

Speaking of which, we moved our cooking outside today. During the summer we set up an outdoor kitchen on our porch. We use a gas grill, a 2 ring gas stove, and an electric grill to do our cooking. This keeps a lot of heat and humidity out of the house during the summer. This strategy also works if you have air conditioning. When you cook inside, the AC has to work harder to get rid of the cooking heat and humidity. My grandmother said that before they got air conditioning, they generally cooked outside all summer long. This is about 3 weeks earlier than last year's "outdoor cooking date".

We had a special treat for dinner tonight. Through the Oklahoma Food Cooperative, we got a tenth of a beef from Cole Farms in Perkins. It weighed about 45 pounds, and had steaks, roasts, and ground beef. His beef is all grass fed, no grain, and we had rib-eye steaks tonight, with yellow squash and cooked greens on the side. The greens (chard and kale) we got from Three Springs Farm, and the squash from PDH Farms. The meat was very tender. If we had gone to Cattlemen's Restaurant in Oklahoma City - which is probably the best steak restaurant in town, located in the Stockyards business district - we could have paid $50 a plate and not had a better steak than we had tonight. The price? About $3.25/lb meat in our freezer. If I had gotten the same amount of meat at say Wal Mart, I bet I would have paid more money. And the Wal Mart mystery meat would have been of lower quality. I like knowing the people who produce my food. I like growing some of it myself and I like buying as much of the rest as I can directly from Oklahoma farmers through our local foods cooperative. I know Fred Cole, we've had breakfast together and prayed together.

I would much rather patronize my neighbors Fred Cole and Don McGehee than support a giant corporation like Wal Mart. In the first place, let's not ignore the fact that WAL MART DOESN'T SELL RIB-EYES FOR $3.25/LB, that's fur sure. Why should I pay more for less? But people do that every day when they drive to an ugly Wal Mart store, park, hike across the sweltering parking lot, go inside, find what they want in the poorly organized store, stand in line, pay, and then hike back across the sweltering, ugly parking lot to get in their cars and drive home. We do this because we " know" Wal Mart has cheaper prices. We know this must be true because Wal Mart spends millions of dollars to tell us that this is so. My experience with Wal Mart is that they do not always have the cheapest price, in fact, when I compare prices, I often find that Wal Mart is NOT the cheapest price. And that calculation doesn't include the value of my time. Even if you want "just one thing" it is hard to get in and out of Wal-Mart in less than a half hour, and if you have to get several things or the store is busy, it can be an hour or more. I do monthly grocery shopping through the Oklahoma Food Cooperative in 20 minutes. No sweltering parking lot, no long lines at the checkout counter.

Permaculture is about growing edible landscapes, that's true, but it is also about creating sustainable local food systems. Indeed, a home permaculture project is simply one aspect of a local food system. Other important factors are people like Don McGehee and Fred Cole, and the 50 something other producers who are members of the Oklahoma Food Cooperative. And the cooperative structure itself is a necessary aspect of a local food system, in that it provides a market - a place where willing buyers and sellers can meet and exchange value. It is a market whose core values are social justice, environmental sustainability, and economic viability. Learn more about this at www.oklahomafood.org .

To get back to the garden, tomorrow we are doing some more mulching, pulling the rest of the vetch and shredding it with the lawnmower (pile it up on the sidewalk, run the mower over it), harvesting shallots and multiplying onions, and planting some more sun flowers and purple hulled peas. In June I am going to try planting some summer squash. We've had failures with every cucurbit we've tried to grow (except for butternut squash), due to squash bugs. One strategy we found at the ATTRA site is to plant late, in June. Plus, we didn't grow any cucurbits last year, so maybe they've gone away and any that hatched out this spring have already died off for lack of sustenance. I am also going to plant them in the middle of our mint beds, that was another strategy suggested at Organic Control of Squash Bugs.

Y'all get the right eats and keep on bon apetìting, you hear?

April 6, 2004

Since last we spoke, we have planted 44 bushes with edible fruit, and 4 fruit trees that will eventually be mature canopy trees. I've added more strawberries, and planted the various lettuces, greens, and put out my hot pepper plants (habanero, caribbean, jalapeno, cayenne) etc. The peas are climbing the polls, and the vetch is blooming. And the vetch seems to be doing what I want it to do, which is grow enough to provide nitrogen but not enough to choke out the other plants. When the bushes mature, we will have a nice green screen between us and the heat of the asphalt street, and in front (on the north side) we will have a nice secluded outdoor "room" framed by the bushes.

Long time readers of this diary/blog will remember that in the first few years I sprinkled a lot of crimson clover and hairy vetch seed each fall. Last fall I did not do this, but I had let some of each go to seed and the vetch seems to be self-seeding just fine. There is a little clover, not as much as I had hoped, however. Anyway, before it went to seed last year I thinned it quite a bit, as it can get quite thick if left unchecked. It is growing, for example, in the beds where I have garlic, shallots, and multiplying onions, and seems to get along just fine. It's also growing among the herbs, and they are seriously in a growth spurt.

We have a nice spring rain today which started early, I awoke this AM to the gentle sound of spring showers. I was happy for the rain, with all this new stuff that I've planted this year, it's important that they stay "hydrated" and if it hadn't rained today I would probably have done some watering.

The bare root plants from the Gene Redlin plant nursery are doing great. Nearly all of them are already leafing and some of the Nanking cherries have beautiful blossoms. The apple trees are presently in bloom, and the clove currants are STILL blooming. Add "long lasting spring flowers" to that plant description. When I walk past them, I get a strong blast of clove scent, which of course is the source of their name. The peach and plum blossoms are gone, replaced with many little baby plums and peaches.

We've eaten some asparagus, and it was very good, next year we will have a lot more to eat as I planted quite a few more asparagus crowns this year. I guess its possible to have too much asparagus, but we are unlikely to have that problem. The lovage and horseradish are coming up fine, this fall I will dig up the horseradish, harvest some of the roots, divided the rest, and have more horseradish next year.

We're still hoping we don't get slammed with a late freeze. It is going to be down to 37 degrees or so over the weekend at night, so I intend to cover the pepper plants.

Last fall I divided my day lilies and scattered them about the garden. They have all done well, and later in the summer we will have beautiful day lilies decorating the landscape, and also beautiful day lily flowers to eat, and day lily leaves to put in stir fries and eggs, and in the fall next year we will have day lily roots to eat. We haven't eaten any roots yet, but since I divided them they will multiply enough that next year we hope to have the roots too.

This years plans for succession in the garden include planting blackeyed and purple hulled peas where the onions and garlic were (they will be harvested in late May, early June), and of course we will plant a fall garden of turnips, and fall greens.

March 21, 2004

Last year's garden diary wasn't kept very diligently, fading out at the beginning of June. I will try to do better this year. This year I am looking to add around 100 perennial edible plants (bushes and cane fruits, plus 6 canopy trees,well, eventually they will be canopy trees, right now they are bare-roots). Plants being added this year, together with their Latin names and expected size, and a url for further info are:

Bushes and canes:
Saskatoon Juneberry, amenlachier alnifolia, 12', http://www.ibiblio.org/pfaf/cgi-bin/arr_html?Amelanchier+alnifolia
siberian pea tree --Caragana arborescens, 18'; http://www.ibiblio.org/pfaf/cgi-bin/arr_html?Caragana+arborescens
sea buckthorn - hippophae rhamnoides, 18' http://www.ibiblio.org/pfaf/cgi-bin/arr_html?Hippophae+rhamnoides
nanking cherry - prunus tomentosa. 6', http://www.ibiblio.org/pfaf/cgi-bin/arr_html?Prunus+tomentosa
Schubert chokecherry, prunus virginiana schuberti, 10' http://www.ibiblio.org/pfaf/cgi-bin/arr_html?Prunus+virginiana
clove currants - ribes odoratum, 6', http://www.ibiblio.org/pfaf/cgi-bin/arr_html?Ribes+odoratum
sand cherry - prunus besseyi, 4' http://www.ibiblio.org/pfaf/cgi-bin/arr_html?Prunus+besseyi

Trees:
black cherry - prunus serotina, 50', http://www.ibiblio.org/pfaf/cgi-bin/arr_html?Prunus+serotina
plum - prunus americana, http://www.ibiblio.org/pfaf/cgi-bin/arr_html?Prunus+americana
apricot - prunus armeniaca, 45', http://www.ibiblio.org/pfaf/cgi-bin/arr_html?Prunus+mandschurica

The bushes are going along 300' or so of the perimeter of our property. I have figured out where to put 4 of the 6 bigger trees, but am still studying on where to put the other 2. I am planting them so they will eventually shade important parts of the house, without plunging the annual area of my garden into perpetual shade.

What's blooming now? Apricot, peach, plum trees, clove currants, Oregon grape, sand plum, bush cherry. Whites and pinks mostly, with touches of yellow from the clove currants and Oregon grape.

What's sprouting? I spotted the first spring peas popping up today. Last fall I planted 365 garlic cloves, they are in beds and scattered around. I also planted a bed and a half of multiplying onions and shallots (4' x 8' beds). I planted the peas among those growing plants, and also around the trees and bushes scattered around the yard. We still have some garlic left that we harvested last year. The peas around the trees and bushes will grow up into them, for the others, I used poles harvested from the Maximilien sunflowers. I don't clip them in the fall, but let the seed heads and stalks remain on the plants for the winter. Birds eat them all winter long. In late winter, I trim the stalks. By then they are perfectly dry, and are fairly sturdy reeds.

Last fall I discovered by accident that the Egyptian onions, which I had been cutting for green onions, also make a nice dried onion. I had thinned some of the bunches, and left a basket of them in a corner of the porch and they were forgotten about for a couple of months. When found, they had cured nicely. There don't have a big bulb, of course, it is small, but very highly onion flavored.

Comfrey and horseradish are coming up, also lemon balm, self-seeding lettuce, fordhook giant chard, dandelions. The elderberries and rose of sharon are growing leaves. Last fall I harvested a quart and a half of elderberries, which I put in the freezer when I harvested them. A couple of months later I put them in a 2 quart mason jar, and added enough ever clear to cover them. Then I let them steep in that for a couple of months, drained the berries, crushed them, added the remaining juice, and capped it tightly. It is a very strong tasting elixir, but it has a surprisingly nice after taste - once you get it down the throat. Good for what ails ya.

The big development this year is the planting of our hedge. It will be composed of sand plum, Siberian pea tree, chokecherry, Nanking cherry, Saskatoon juneberry, sea buckthorn, and dewberries. I'm thinking it will be very attractive as well as functioning to help alter the microclimate in a beneficial way. And the berries and fruits will be tasty and nutritious too.

Last year we harvested quite a bit more food than we had in previous years. We had fruit nearly every day from May through the first of August, although not very much of that fruit made it into the house. We got a few cobblers out of it but most of it was just picked and eaten right in the yard. Big peaches, so juicy I had to bend over when I bit into one because the juices would run down into my beard. The juice always found my beard anyway, but there are worse fates, than having fresh peach juice in your beard. Much worse. As fates go, it's not really so bad. They sure didn't taste like any peaches I have ever bought in a supermarket.

Anyway, we also harvested lots of greens, well into November and December, and had good harvests of turnips, purple hulled and black-eyed peas too. Plus herbs. The June 2003 garlic harvest has given us garlic all winter, and we still have some left.

We expect to do even better in 2004. That's the thing about forest gardening, it's like putting money in the bank on compound interest. Each year builds on the work of the previous year. It's like digging in your backyard and discovering gold.

Found a lot of worms planting peas a week or so ago. The soil under the winter mulch was very dark and friable, in various degrees in different parts of the garden. We had a fairly mild winter, and the spring thus far has been very warm. I am hoping our good luck holds and we avoid any late hard freezes. Our average last freeze date is about April 7th, so "it could happen."

About 1/3 of the logs surrounding our garden beds were stolen this winter during some of the colder months. This is the second year in a row for that, and so we are changing the way we define our beds. From a producer member of the Oklahoma Food Cooperative, we are getting poles (about 10 feet long, 3 to 4 inch diameter). We will stack them two up and drill a hole through them and use rebar to anchor them in the ground to define our beds. The hedges should also eventually create a "living wall". Like a courtyard wall, it will provide privacy, muffle the sound from the street, and furnish some needed summer shade (these are additional benefits to the berries, of course, and the berries taste good and are nutritious).

And so it goes, on these first daze of spring. Don't worry, it's not too late! Plant something today! And then, plant something else tomorrow! You deserve good food. Below is our plant list for 2004.

BETTER LIVING THROUGH BETTER FOOD!!!

Robert Waldrop, Gatewood Neighborhood, Oklahoma City

"There cannot be a nation of millionaires, and there never has been a nation of Utopian comrades; but there have been any number of nations of tolerably contented peasants." - G.K. Chesterton, Outline of Sanity

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"Men are ruled, at this minute by the clock, by liars who refuse them news, and by fools who cannot govern." - G.K.Chesterton, The New Name, Utopia of Usurers and Other Essays, 1917

2004 Forest Garden Plant List

105 total, 3 biennials, 24 annuals, 72 perennials

TREES 12 varieties
mature pecan tree
immature pecan tree
semi dwarf peach (Elberta semi dwarf, hansens)
semi dwarf Apricot
apple (dwarf Jonathan and Gala semi dwarf)
semi-dwarf plum (Superior and Toka,)
Manchurian apricot
black cherry
Oklahoma redbud

BUSHES 12 varieties, all perennial
bush cherries
sand plums
elderberries
Mature mulberries
Oregon grape bushes
Siberian pea tree
Nanking cherry
Sand cherry
Saskatoon juneberry
Sea buckthorn
Schubert chokeberry
Sand plum

GROUND COVERS 4 varieties (1 perennial, 3 annual)
strawberries
purple clover A
white clover A
hairy vetch A

VINES AND CANES 10 varieties , all perennial
fredonia grape
niagara grape
venus grape
concord grape
dewberries
blackberries
boysenberries
clove currants
scarlet runner beans A
Luffa (a)

GREENS AND SALADS 17 varieties (6 perennial, 7 annual, 4 biannual)
Salad burnet
daylilies
Turnips (a)
Collards (a)
Fordhook giant chard (b)
Bloomsday savoy spinach (b)
Rhubarb chard (b)
Lucullus chard (b)
New Zealand spinach (a)
Ruby orach (mountain spinach) (a)

Mustard (a)
lettuce polycultue bed (a) (Parisian cos, buttercrunch, red sails, bibb, romaine)
Dandelions
Bloody sorrel
French sorrel
Rose of sharon (flowers)

VEGETABLES 10 varieties (2 perennial, 8 annual)
Asparagus
rhubarb
habenero peppers (a)
Caribbean peppers (a)
Cherokee and roma tomatoes (a)
English peas (a)
Purple hulled peas (a)
Black-eyed peas (a)
Jalapeno peppers (a)
Cayenne peppers (a)

ROOT CROPS 5 varieties (all annuals)
shallots (a)
walking onions (a)
potato onions (a)
Garlic A (a)
Turnips (a)

FLOWERS 12 varieties (8 perennial, 4 annual)
Rosa rugosa
Rosa erfult
Prairie rose
Purple echinacea
Pink ecinacea
Iris
Maximilien sunflowers
Russian mammoth sunflowers A
Mexican hat (a)
Wild geranium (a)
bee balm (monarda) (a)
Daffodils

HERBS 23 varieties (21 perennial, 1 annual, 1 biennial)
sage
creeping thyme
common oregano
greek oregano
tarragon
lovage
gotu kola
catnip
rue
garlic chives
spearmint
apple mint
lemon balm
spear mint (or some kind of common mint)
dill (A)
horehound
chocolate mint (the leaf tasted like one of those chocolate mints you get at a restaurant checkout)
lemon mint
Roman chamomile
horseradish
rosemary
comfrey
parsley (b)

LIST OF PLANTS ORGANIZED BY LAYERS OF A FOREST GARDEN

Canopy trees
pecan
American plum
Manchurian apricot
black cherry

Understory trees
Oklahoma redbud
semi dwarf peach
semi dwarf Apricot
semi-dwarf apple
semi-dwarf plum


Bushes and canes
bush cherries
sand plums
elderberries
Mature mulberries
Oregon grape bushes
Siberian pea tree
Nanking cherry
Sand cherry
Saskatoon juneberry
Sea buckthorn
Schubert chokeberry
Sand plum
dewberries
blackberries
boysenberries
clove currants

Herbs and smaller plants
Salad burnet
daylilies
Turnips (a)
Collards (a)
Fordhook giant chard (b)
Rhubarb chard (b)
Mustard (a)
Self seeding lettuce bed (a)
Dandelions
Bloody sorrel
French sorrel
Rose of sharon (flowers)
Asparagus
rhubarb
habenero peppers (a)
Cherokee and roma tomatoes (a)
English peas (a)
Purple hulled peas (a)
Black-eyed peas (a)
Jalapeno peppers (a)
Cayenne peppers (a)
Rosa rugosa
Rosa erfult
Prairie rose
Purple echinacea
Pink ecinacea
Iris
Maximilien sunflowers
Russian mammoth sunflowers A
Mexican hat (a)
Wild geranium (a)
bee balm (monarda) (a)
sage
creeping thyme
common oregano
greek oregano
tarragon
lovage
gotu kola
catnip
rue
garlic chives
spearmint
apple mint
lemon balm
spear mint (or some kind of common mint)
dill (A)
horehound
chocolate mint (the leaf tasted like one of those chocolate mints you get at a restaurant checkout)
lemon mint
Roman chamomile
horseradish
rosemary
comfrey
parsley (b)

Ground covers
strawberries
purple clover A
white clover A
hairy vetch A

Climbing vines
fredonia grape
niagara grape
venus grape
concord grape
scarlet runner beans A
Luffa (a)

Roots
shallots (a)
walking onions (a)
potato onions (a)
Garlic A (a)
Turnips (a)