on gardening

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    On Not Cutting Corners Paid Member

    I am a steadfast refugee from the computer age, a modern dinosaur, born too late and disinclined to type, send e-mail, or surf the Net. I know that in the time it would take me to learn to use the computer I could bud and graft disappearing strains of heritage apples, a far more compelling task for my hands and mind. Even though I am a techno-twit, hiding from the roar of the twenty-first century behind brocade skirts of black peppermint, cool mint lettuce, and burgundy amaranth, I know about Y2K computer panic with all of its triplicate zeroes and threats of disaster. I know about it and also brood over the potential danger of worldwide shutdown of nuclear power plants caused by millennial computer failure. 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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    A Taste as Old as Cold Water Paid Member

    Timeless spring has its sharp teeth buried in my back flank, urging me to finish the last plantings of April before summer rises up out of the warm ground to claim the garden. Today, Sarah and I are planting a young olive tree on the edge of the Edible Schoolyard garden at Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School in north Berkeley, with the help of a few rapscallion seventh graders. And, hard as I try to resist, the primordial olive is pulling me down again into the well of time. More »
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    The Birds of the Muses Paid Member

    THE BEES were living in the walls long before I heard them. It was Indian summer a few years ago when I discovered a small cleft along the seamline where our brick chimney pressed against the outer wall of the house. High overhead, scores of pollen-laden honeybees whizzed with industrious delight through this narrow fissure into the inner core of our home. More »
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    A Trace of Figs Paid Member

    Not so long ago I had just finished pruning a beloved Black Mission fig tree when breaking archaeobotanical news rocked my world. A handful of charred figs, carbonized and unearthed in the ruins of a burned village north of the ancient city of Jericho, pushed the known dawn of agriculture back a thousand years to 9400 B.C.E. Not just that, but these same Fertile Crescent figs proved to be a variety that grows only on sterile female trees. Prior to their discovery the first evidence of settled human history was believed to be the domestication of seed-bearing grains and legumes around 8400 B.C.E. More »
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    Arranging Garbage Paid Member

    IT WAS ALMOST DARK when I came upon the bobcat, walking alone on a steep overgrown trail far above the Green Gulch valley. She had been dead for weeks, her black-rimmed lips pulled back in a snarl of protest, tiny soot flies scouring her empty eye sockets. Her belly was slit open and she lay, disemboweled, in her own dry blood. The acrid stench of death rose off her matted fur. I considered carrying the bobcat down to bury her in the farm compost pile but decided against it. She was her own sovereign palace of decay, already well-consumed. I placed her, instead, off the trail, onto a soft mound of chain fern and lady's bedstraw and hurried down the mountain while I could still see. This was more than ten years ago, but I still think of that bobcat, especially in this autumn season as we build the last big compost piles of the year, arranging garbage in one giant heap sealed with moldy oat straw drenched in stale green pond water. More »