on gardening

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    No Trace Paid Member

    A few miles north of Green Gulch Farm is Muir Woods National Monument, a pristine stand of old-growth redwoods. Lately, I’m there a lot helping to pickax open the seized soil in Bohemian Grove so that broad-rooted native grasses can reclaim the tight ground. For the last five years, it’s been my civic duty to volunteer in the woods and work on the compacted ground where a giant Buddha was once constructed. More »
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    Tell It Slant Paid Member

    Of all the seasons in the garden I love the dead of winter best. In icy February when storms from the Gulf of Alaska pelt the frozen ground with hail, the bare-boned skeleton of the dormant garden stands revealed in the stiletto wind. More »
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    Seeds of Plenty Paid Member

    Almost fifteen years ago, at our annual gathering of ecological farmers, I received a bulging handful of Rainbow Inca flint corn from my gardening sister, Dru Rivers of Full Belly Farm. “Plant this corn,” she urged me, “and save some seed to share with new farmers next year.” The beauty of this heritage corn captured me from the first with its dense rows of russet gold, steel blue, and burnt orange kernels wrapped under dark burgundy and pale dun husks. When we ground the corn at harvest time, it yielded a soft mound of lavender-hued meal that we added to our Thanksgiving bread. Best of all, Rainbow Inca corn was generous; even after the first growing season we returned to the Eco-Farm gathering with plenty of seed to share. More »
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    Roots Paid Member

    Whatever you have to say, leavethe roots on, let themdangleAnd the dirtjust to make clearWhere they come from. —Charles Olsen Winter rain, falling for ten thousand years. I celebrate Groundhog Day on my hands and knees in the muddy sludge of the February garden, grubbing out the tangled roots of Michaelmas asters in the rain. Although it is best not to dig in heavy rain, I have no choice. The asters must be lifted and divided before they leaf out so that they have time to become established in the summer garden. Already spring has begun to slit open the primeval eyelid leaves of the flowers; they reveal their first pale green retinas of light, winking against the dark soil of the garden. More »
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    Everything, O Bhikkus, Is Burning Paid Member

    On New Year’s Day five years ago, I planted a handful of seeds gathered from a Paulownia tree that survived the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, Japan, fifty years before. The seeds were given to me by Japanese peace activist and painter Mayumi Oda, who was a small child when her country was bombed. It was freezing cold outside that New Year’s Day. Black hail pelted the roof of the Green Gulch glasshouse where we worked. We mixed oak-leaf mold and old forest soil together in a redwood seed flat and took off our gloves to plant the tree seeds. They fell in silence that frozen morning, dark tears on dark soil. Outside, the ice wind moaned and sucked at the seams of the glasshouse. More »
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    An Enduring Crop Paid Member

    I remember that late spring morning about seven years ago, working in the lower fields of Green Gulch Farm, harvesting rainbow chard for our local food bank with a group of elementary school students from San Francisco. The kids were fanned out in a rainbow arc themselves, spanning the field, chattering as they harvested crates of greens. One child, a pale and strangely mute boy of about ten, wandered away from his classmates to stand alone at the edge of the field, where farm irrigation sprinklers were watering the next line of crops. The May morning was warm, without a breath of wind. I watched as the child took his place in the back-mist of the irrigation jets, holding his thin, white hands out to the soft hiss of water. “He’s a new boy,” the classroom teacher whispered, following my gaze. “From Bosnia. He never says a word.” More »