This a busy time of year in the gardens and at our homestead, Mountain Jewel. The house build is taking up a lot of our time and we’re so thankful to have my parents here (@birdsinparadise) helping with the build!
Luckily we have a lot of fresh fruits & veggies to share with them and cocreate some awesome meals. Zucchini, purslane and cucumbers, anyone?
Above you can see a sweet little handful of berries. With so much hard work put into the homestead year after year, eating the fruits of our labor is extraordinarily satisfying and promising.
Pictured are some black raspberries, juneberries and goumi berries. We are especially in love with these Red Gem goumi berries. I ate a few too many at their astringent stage (I was so excited!) and have learned that they’re at they’re best when they’re nearly falling off the vine!
One plant that we have in abundance is Purslane! I’m so thankful to have such an adventurous mom who I can give something a little atypical (to the modern diet) and she whips up something amazing!
Purslane (Portulaca oleracea) aka Verdelagos in spanish, is an incredibly nutrionally rich plant that boasts Omega 3s and ALAs (only found in fish!) . It grows like a weed (and as a weed) which causes many people to skip over it, but it’s one of the most heat tolerant — read: heat thriving — crops available. It grows faster than malabar spinach and I think it’s tastier.
This is all a part of our effort to thrive while seeing what is available. To me, this is aligning with a permaculture lifestyle.
My amazing mom made a DELICIOUS pesto pasta using purslane!
Here she is also making a special treat that Luci would love to get her hands on. This is just a teaser – I’ll let her reveal what we were eating that night!!
It’s also that time of year that the harvests are really starting to churn out!
Pictured is our first tomato (((almost))) ripe! We love snacking on fresh tomatoes and cannot wait! Any day now.. Then I’m sure will be eating them with nearly every meal.
One thing we are already having overwhelming amounts of is cucumbers and zucchinis — and it’s only the first week of harvests. We planted 30 cucumber plants (!?!!) so this year we’re basically going to be giving them away to friends and neighbors constantly. Yesterday we made 4 quarts of lacto fermented cucumbers with the harvest you see above.
What are you favorite ways to eat cucumbers? We eat them straight off the vine, love a good vinegar cuc salad, sliced up, and of course pickles!
Pictured above with my hand on it is the Bolivian “cucumber”, Achocha. These seeds were gifted to us at the Baker Creek Spring Planting Fest and we’re excited to try them out. After weeding the bed, I put them in the shade (of a goumi & Wild False Indigo). I also put in some horehound (seed started by a friend) and Basil (Emily variety).
Man I love growing all the green things!!
How does your garden grow? Look forward to sharing little snipits all summer long and of course keeping y’all updated on the house build!
Paws paws have quickly become near and dear to us at Mountain Jewel.
Upon moving to the Ozarks, we were so excited to find oodles of wild paw paws on and near our property. Last fall we harvest a lush bounty of wild fruit. It’s safe to saw were fanatical about paw paws!
The paw paws on our homestead haven’t set fruit in the past few years and this may have to do with low genetic diversity. 2 or more varieties are best for pollination. Grafting selected cultivars onto wild rootstock will increase productivity and boost diversity.
As with all our permaculture endeavors we seek to witness and observe the natural processes before intervening. After seeing heavy fruit set on a nearby patch, and discovering more and more patches on our land, we wanted decided to take action and marry select paw paw genetics onto our wild patches.
Tools of the trade:
Here you see the complete grafting kit. We made a video of the process & share it on our blog likely tomorrow. Pictured: paw paw scions (Mango, Wells, Prolific, NC-1 & Overlease varieties), sharp pruning saw, secateurs, masking tape, grafting film, fresh utility blade, & a pen 🙂
In the past we’ve attempted whip and tongue but had no success. I’ve since learned the importance of wrapping the scion with grafting film to maintain moisture. On past grafts, the scions dried out before leafing out. Since visiting a university fruit station and seeking out information online, I’ve honed in on a few tidbits that will hopefully increase our success.
We are choosing to focus on the bark inlay graft. This comes recommended from the paw paw master himself Neil Peterson. The advantages are numerous. Firstly scion and rootstock don’t need to match and large diameter stock can be used. The cuts are simple and a strong union can be ensured with tape. Lastly, vigorous growth results from using established trees.
We are pleased to be in connection to an ever evolving landscape and all the skills associated with managing and increasing productivity of the landscape. Hopeful for a lifelong horticulture journey and increasing abundance.
Hairy babe of the garden// old fashioned fav :: Rose Campion ((Silene coronaria))
…aka lamp flower as those woolly leaves were used as lamp wicks.
Often this flower doesn’t photograph well because the colors are so bright!!
These seeds were gifted to us from a wise woman of the land (whom we lived with for a spell) who has tended her own rugged mountainous land in North Carolina for decades. Plant/people connections are so rich as they evoke not only the innate botanical beauty but harken to the relationships we forge via plants throughout time; a particular period (or way) of life and a sweet memory as the person is recalled to mind.
She sent us these seeds when we first moved to the land and I sowed them in the gardens. These flowers notoriously self-sow and keep coming back year after year (although they are short lived perennials, they reseed around the original mother plant.) The first year we had them in our garden by the cabin in the woods. Since then we’ve moved them to numerous other beds and they usually put on this beautiful flower in the first year and don’t come back the next.
I think as long as we have a garden, I’d love to keep growing this!
As stated above, it’s one of the reasons I love to share seeds because we carry the stories of how we got them and when we look at these lovely plants we think back to that very cool lady who lives on the mountainside in North Carolina. We think of her fortitude, generosity, commitment, etc.
We have written about her previously here and here.
We don’t use rose campion for any other purpose than eyeing these beautiful babes in the garden, but you can use the leaves as lamp wicks. I’ll have to try that some day!
When the honeysuckle flowers are in bloom (divine smells in the air!) and the garden really starts to fill out, that’s usually an indicator of the first opportunity to put up hay.
Our friends over at Elixir Farm have 100% organic, grass fed cows that range over their beautiful pasture. It’s a complete cow paradise! They eat of the beautiful grasses all year, but need some supplemental feed come winter.
Each Spring we receive the summons to come help them. Some years the crew is scant and the work feels crazy-hard, but luckily this year a band of communards from nearby East Wind Community came out and helped. Between the 11 of us, it was actually pretty easy (and fun) work.
As we have done this 3-4 summers in a row, we kind of know the ropes, so we were in partial leadership positions. Ini is a boss at stacking the hay on the trailer — check out how tall/efficient this load is! It really is a true art, especially because this rig has to make it up and down some bumpy holler roads.
It’s always an incredibly dirty/dusty/itchy job. This year I finally got smart and covered my arms and legs with long sleeves and pants. Wore my bandana for when we put up the hay in the barn (it gets hard to breathe otherwise, with all the particles!). And also had on a large sunhat and sunglasses. My only “weak spot” was wearing open toed shoes, I suppose, but my Chacos are my summer mainstay and are super easy to clean.
After haying for a few hours, it is almost a necessity to jump in the cool river. We strip off our clothes and dive in. The current is strong these days so if you venture out to the middle, you spend all of your energy staying in place. The gorgeous waters of the Ozarks are what drew us here and definitely are a huge boon to staying 🙂
And of course, going to the creek for a dip is always full of surprises. One of our friends caught a baby turtle as it was swimming by.
And then we headed back into the fields to pick up the rest of the hay. As you can see, there’s more for him to cut, but that has to wait for another day as rain was in the forecast! Haying is always tricky business as you’re not only fighting the coordination of workers all arriving at moment’s notice, but also scheduling around the rains.
After the final gathering, it was back to putting hay in the barn. We only brought 2 loads on this day. In previous years (with less people), we’ve put up 7 or more loads. It can be a long and strenuous day!
Luckily Elixir Farm is a place of abundance, beauty and absolutely tasty meals. We feasted on the porch and enjoyed our time together. This was definitely a fun haying experience.
As the house progresses steadily, it’s pretty amazing to realize that every step we’re taking is bringing us one step closer to realizing our dreams. It’s all of the little details which add up to become a house.
Yesterday and today we have been working steadily on building the parallel chord trusses, which will double as concrete forms.
We’re at the beginning of getting our systems down and work site set up. We’ve chosen a spot with great morning-midday shade, but the afternoon can be brutal. Most days we are getting high humidity and 80-85 degree sunny weather. This means the sweat is dripping and the sawdust is sticking to our legs!
I’ve set up making the cuts for the diagonal pieces (“webs” in the diagram above) and 6 foot lengths and Ini is putting them together. Each truss takes 12 diagonal lengths and so I’ve taken to organizing my cuts into buckets for easy delivery.
Meanwhile, Ini has been hammering the trusses together. (Note my choked up hammer grip due to wrist fatigue, he says…)
This method of truss building is simple, albeit labor intensive and also uses small dimensional lumber (rough cut 1x4s in this case). As noted in the above diagram, this method can make great use of pallet wood, a ubiquitous offshoot of our consumptive culture. Furthermore, the style of truss will allow us to easily span 16 feet and maintain a cathedral ceiling while providing a 12″ deep cavity which will be filled with blown in cellulose for an R value of 36. Add some dead air space and radiant barrier and we should be achieving closer to R 50.
The simple geometry involved in truss building relies on the inherent strength of triangles. By using this simple principle, we can create a unit that is much stronger than the sum of its parts and efficiently utilize wood.
As always we are seeking to maximize outputs and minimize input. This is at the core of Permaculture. In this case we are stacking functions of using these trusses as concrete forms when we pour our stem wall. We’ll add plywood and then oil it so the concrete doesn’t stick. Once the concrete is set, we will remove formwork and install as roof assembly. It might seem weird that we’re building a roof before even starting on the wall, but there is a method to our madness…
It has been quite a journey since we’ve moved onto the 18 acres we have been tending for the past three and half years. Some of the biggest changes are taking place as we’re endeavoring to build ourselves a home. It seems like every lesson, hardship and observation has led us to this point and we’re ready to dive in.
The phrase “building a house” does not begin to describe the extremely large undertaking involved in such a process. A house is not the sum of parts (lumber, stone, insulation etc..), but rather an extension of the humans that inhabit it. Many natural building enthusiasts refer to the house as a thirds skin (the second being our clothing). Making home does entail building a house, but extends beyond the physical details and includes how the building / inhabitant integrate into the landscape.
In line with our ethics, we have yet to take a drastic approach to changing the landscape. Small and slow has been our way.
For years we both envisioned building our own natural own, both independently and then in partnership. The dreaming, hands-on time, designing, scheming, considering, researching, sourcing, planning and sketching phases have brought us to a point where we are calling in BIG changes. With these changes also come tough decisions. In preparation for this we have walked throughout our land countless times at different seasons, observed the patterns of the sun and moon and taken notes on plant communities and soil conditions. Now that we’ve settled on a location, we are ready to break ground.
Inviting large equipment onto our land has been a difficult decision to make. We dig all the excavation for all prior buildings by hand, and value this low impact method. It is accessible, sustainable and free. In considering the scale and scope of this build and the importance of a solid foundation systems and proper drainage we called around and found the best heavy equipment operator in the area.
Neither of us have endeavored such an undertaking and it is a little nerve racking to see it beginning.
We both love to natural building; the materials, the process and of course the final result. Some of the most comfortable human spaces we’ve inhabited have been build in alignment with the Earth from site selection, materials used to the construction process. But what does it look like for us to be guiding a major building process?
This past week we’ve seen what 20 hours of heavy equipment can get done. We said goodbye to a beautiful red oak (while it was in decline, it’s still hard to kill such a large tree). We’re been sick to our stomachs at the destruction we’ve seen as the house site is being prepared. Overwhelmed, stressed, nervous… Yes and also elated and joyful. We are making the biggest changes to the landscape yet, and while we feel it’s warranted to ensure our house stands strong as long as possible (hopefully well over 100 years) it’s still a lot to be responsible for.
This is just the first step, and as the equipments operator mentioned as we rolled off site late last Friday evening, “Now the hard work begins”. In some ways I agree as from now on it will be almost exclusively hand labor, but there’s also a joy and connection to the place and materials that heavy equipment does not afford.
The first year we were on the land, we held back from buying many plants. This, however, didn’t stop me from buying 13 heritage roses!
My grandmother had a rose garden at her place in Pasadena, California and I remember visiting it as a girl. As I grew older, I was intensely attracted to the divine smell of the many varieties of rose and I knew I wanted some on the homestead!
Luckily there is a longstanding tradition of selecting roses that are not only beautiful, but also are very delightfully fragrant! Though modern hybrid roses usually aren’t selected for scent, many of the heirloom roses are. It was these on which I focused my search.
Life is all about the connections & I find the history of plants very fascinating. Today I am starting a series as I research the history of each of the roses on our homestead (6 remain from the original 13 – I think in the first year I didn’t baby some of them enough and they didn’t make it through a harsh winter!)
Madame Isaac Pereire
Our search begins where my journey with this rose began, at Antique Rose Emporium. This is where I bought my plants. Of this rose they write,
Luscious, sumptuous, almost blousy beauty, runs one description of this well-known old rose. Named after the wife of a French banker, ‘Madame Isaac Pereire’ has fat, cabbagey flowers of rich rose madder, with perhaps the strongest deep rose perfume extant. To see and smell a full blown bush on an early April morning is a heady experience. A smaller but even more lovely fall display and scattered roses throughout the summer are extra rewards that come as the plant gets established. ‘Mme. Isaac Pereire’ makes a handsome shrub specimen for pegging. 1881.
The Pereire brothers were prominent 19th-century financiers in Paris, France, who were rivals of the Rothschilds. Like the Rothschilds, they were Jews, but the Pereire brothers were Sephardi Jews of Portuguese origin.
Émile (3 December 1800 – 5 January 1875) and his brother Isaac (25 November 1806 – 12 July 1880) founded a business conglomerate that included creating the Crédit Mobilier bank. It became a powerful and dynamic funding agency for major projects in France, Europe and the world at large. It specialized in mining developments; it funded other banks including the Imperial Ottoman Bank or the Austrian Mortgage Bank; it funded railway construction[ and insurance companies, as well as building contractors. Their bank had large investments in a transatlantic steamship lines, urban gas lighting, a newspaper and the Paris public transit system.
In 1866/7, the bank underwent a severe crisis, and the Pereires were forced to resign at the demand of the Banque de France; the bank never recovered.
Their grandfather, Jacob Rodrigues Pereira, was an “academic and the first teacher of deaf-mutes in France.” (source)
Very interesting! I assume that they did not win their rival with the Rothschilds otherwise we would know their names instead of the Rothschilds!
Looking further I find this,
‘Madame Isaac Pereire’ is a dark pink Bourbon rose bred in France in 1881 by Armand Garcon.
The rose is named after Fanny Pereire, the wife of a prominent French banker, who used the inheritance after his death to honor his memory and simultaneously have this rose named after her.
In a very Continental twist, Pink Ladies and Crimson Gents reveals that Isaac Pereire was Fanny’s uncle as well as her husband, a bit of salacious gossip that I somehow can’t resist keeping in memory.
Well then! Am I still glad that I did the research? Hah! That seems a bit inbred to me. Marrying an uncle 19 years older than you at the tender age of 16! For even more information regarding their union and the family history, see this informative post.
Perhaps I’ll start calling this rose by its direct name, Fanny! She certainly picked a great rose to name herself after.
There is no availability problem with this rose – almost all suppliers stock it! Produced in 1880 by Armond Garçon, a Normandy rose breeder, it was originally named ‘La Bien-heureux de la Salle’, but having found its way to Paris in 1881 it was renamed ‘Madame Isaac Pereire’ in honour of Fanny Pereire, wife of a prominent banker. It would be interesting to discover the exact circumstances under which this name change took place.
Isaac’s first wife died in 1837 and in 1840, at the age of 34, Isaac became enamoured of Fanny Pereire, his brother Emile’s eldest daughter, who was then just 16 years old. Isaac and Fanny wished to marry and in due course Emile reluctantly agreed. Because of the close blood relationship, the marriage also required special consent from the State. After this was obtained however, Emile had a change of heart. Once again he eventually gave in to pleas from Isaac and Fanny but their affair created a rift between Emile and Isaac that was slow to heal. This was made all the more difficult by proximity, since not only did they occupy adjoining offices at the bank but they also shared the same large residence in Paris. Nevertheless, both saw the wisdom of ensuring that the rift was not allowed to jeopardise the banking business.
Fanny’s mother Rachel Rodriguez, Emile’s distant cousin, was of Iberian extraction, which may account for the dark good looks possessed by Fanny. She bore Isaac three children. Evidence suggests she was a very effective manager of Isaac’s social affairs especially during the ill health he suffered in the last years of his life. With Emile’s death in 1875 and Isaac’s in 1880 – the year before the naming of this rose – Fanny assumed with no little skill the role of dowager of the two families. She became something of a matriarch and lived on to the age of 85, dying in 1910.
Now my curiosity is satisfied knowing more of the story behind this gorgeous rose.
Stay tuned as I look further into the roses of Mountain Jewel…
In college I remember learning about a very cool phenomenon called Keystone Species.
While all creatures have an impact on their environment, keystone species take this to the next level. If a keystone species is removed from their environment, the ecosystem would change drastically.
As we interact with our homestead ecosystem and the larger landscape, we undoubtedly see the ways in which we humans have the potential to be keystone species. We create and destroy habitat as a matter of course. However, today I want to talk about a real example of how the beaver has created and shaped an ecosystem in my neighbor’s landscape.
Beavers are notorious for felling trees and making dams.
Take a walk by your favorite creek or stream and you’ll undoubtedly see signs of the beaver, if they live in your area. The telltale sign of gnaw marks near the base of a tree. This can frustrate land owners who are trying to grow certain plants near streams, but the beaver serves an important function within the ecosystem. My neighbor’s experience is a perfect case.
My neighbor bought his land about 40 years ago. Though he hasn’t lived there continuously over the last 40 years, he has witnessed the changes in his landscape. We were taking a walk along one of his lower fields the other day and he showed me the beaver pond and he mentioned that when he moved here, it didn’t exist! He also mentioned that when he first saw the beavers moving in, he didn’t want them there because when creating dams they obviously have to cut down a lot of trees! They drastically change the landscape. Such is the level of transformation the beavers have on a piece of land.
To give you a palpable example, as we went toward the beaver pond, about 200 ft away I noticed that the plant habitat changed drastically. There were countless small Sycamore saplings and the understory was covered in ferns! It was lush, moist, and cool – a far cry from the field only a stone’s throw away.
The rest of the landscape surrounding this area was tall grasses and scrubby understory. There were no other areas with ferns.
As we approached the area, it was apparent that the beavers had drastically changed it. From small feeder springs, the beavers had slowly but surely damed them up, creating a pond. Where no pond existed before in a flat field, the beavers had successfully created one. Anyone who has ever tried to start a pond using nothing but what is naturally in the area knows how hard it can be to trap water. Water notoriously finds areas to escape and leak and unless one has very clay rich soil, it can be difficult to keep water in ponds. Yet the beavers did it!
Walking along the bank of the beaver pond, I was truly amazed. The water was about 2-3 ft deep and clear! An ecosystem had been created and life was thriving because of the work of the beaver’s hands, teeth and ingenuity. There were even fish in the pond, likely brought in as eggs from the feet of shore birds.
My neighbor mentioned that the beavers had long since left their creation because the trees they fell for their food source had become scarce. However, the legacy of habitat for many that they left behind exists long after their departure. It made me think about the effect that I have on a landscape and what will be left after I am gone. How will the efforts of my human hands carry on when I am no longer around to tend it? Is what I’m doing able to create habitat that will outlast me?
As I watched the bumble bees and other pollinators flying around our homestead yesterday, I was delighted to note that I am already creating habitat and food sources for many creatures to come live here. In the pond, there are hundreds of toadpoles and each day I notice new species of pollinators swooping in to dine. I even noticed a handful of Zebra Swallowtail butterfly larvae on the Paw Paws within our forest gardens (their young leaves are the only host plants for the young larvae to eat.)
Many of these cycles happen naturally and it is my goal to be a beneficial human within my environment, looking beyond the bounds of my flesh and needs to create habitat and provide ecosystem services for countless other creatures. At that point, I’ll consider my efforts a job well done.
If a keystone species can simply be defined as an organism that makes it possible for other species to live in the ecosystem, I have to think of all of the habitat destruction that humans are doing. Pesticides and herbicides released into the environment are killing off species, making water unclean and having untold effects for all organisms. This is short term thinking and while creating a healthy thriving ecosystem does take time and perhaps more effort and management up front, we can do this and set things in motion which can benefit future generations of not only humans, but other organisms as well.
This past weekend was the annual Baker Creek spring planting festival and it happened to be our first outreach/vending event. We put a lot into it and wanted to share a little of our experience.
Baker Creek is a large heirloom seed company that began as a Jere Gettle’s passion for gardening and has since grown into a well-known company that ships rare and heirloom seeds worldwide.
Every year 10 000 people attend the festival in Mansfield MO (an hour away from us) to connect around all things gardening and Earth based. We were honored to have a booth as part of the Rural Renaissance tent, a group focused on local community and permaculture.
We both knew this was going to be a big event, and we did all we could to prepare for it.
Everything from preparing plants for sale, designing and printing business cards, making signs and informational material and getting ready for sales. We formed a of lot of new paths and our next event wont be quite so much ground work. This was the first time we’d show up in public sphere in a big way and we wanted to represent what we’re all about; a perennial Earth based lifestyle.
More than selling items, this event was all about outreach.
We made some great connections and gained insights into where people’s interests lie and what direction to head. We were offering a number of Rubus species, goldenseal plants, tinctures, books, worm kits and germinated paw paw seeds. There was A LOT of talking and it took us a few days to recover.
Mountain Jewel has been waiting to be born in both of us for quite a while.
The past few years we have been focused on establishing our homestead infrastructure, but now another layer is unfolding. This represents a phase where we touch the lives of others through connection, inspiration and empowerment.
We believe in what we’re doing and we want to share that with others. The vision for a bioregional permaculture nursery is in the nascent stages and we are starting to gather interest for educational and community involvement opportunities for this year’s straw bale house build.
What this event shows us is the importance of showing up. We were unsure weather we were prepared enough, but soon realized that we had been preparing for this for years. Every work exchange opportunity, workshop, book, experiment and curiosity led us to this place. We have a true passion and desire to share the benefits of permaculture and living in connection with the earth.
We were well received and had some very supportive responses.
Overall the event was a success and after recovering we are looking forward to future events including workshops and work parties on our land! We’re all in it together and it’s at events like this where we can come together and really feel that. We extend our gratitude to all of the organizers who made this event possible 🙂
Last night Ini and I walked around the homestead and I’m not sure what it was, but we started saying Remember when…
This was just a scrubby field with a huge oak and hickory in it? When our neighbor came up one time with his discer and we walked behind it picking up rocks (which did nothing…) When you got naked and started pulling out what we thought was poison ivy, but ended up being aromatic sumac and I screamed when it touched your butt.
Remember that winter we slept outside when we came back after traveling and our yurt was moldy.. How we started off without power and carried water up the hill from our spring…
When we were just talking about getting a high tunnel.. starting a pond.. building the solar shed. Remember year after year when we dug beds and half of the soil was rocks..
Remember when we met at OUR ecovillage and sat by a fire one night realizing how closely our dreams aligned and decided to try it together…
All of the hard work, literal blood, sweat and tears that have gone into this…
It’s all coming together in another turning of the revolution as we reach out into the community to share ourselves and some of the fruitions of the homestead.
In making the final preparations to vend this weekend, we’re seeing just how much we’ve set into motion and how we can bridge with the community. It’s extraordinarily exciting!