It felt so odd typing 2020 into the title. Can you believe we are almost at 2020? That is amazing. I am excited to enter this new decade in our space, expanding and honing our vision for this land.
This is the time of year where any spare time is spent looking throughout seed catalogs, comparing the seeds I purchased last year with my notes on how things did where, seeing what I still have some seeds for, and what I need to purchase. We had so many things do so well last summer, and we had a lot of new things go into the ground we won't see a harvest from for several years. Some of our woodland medicinals fall into that category as they take several years from seed - and we have some from bare root and some from seed. We may not see Goldenseal for awhile, but we know it is there.
The plan for 2020 is to expand all of the garden areas, increase the forest guilds, plant around the whole back garage building, plant more natives and water loving plants in the moist areas, and more drought tolerant natives where it is dry. I love posting my lists to the blog because is it a great thing to have when I look back next year, comparing notes and memories. It also makes me feel more accomplished when working on a few acres, because when you don't plant in rows, sometimes it looks like not a lot is there, when in actuality it is a vast amount of plant materials, but spread out over land as plant do naturally in the wild.
2020 Medicinal Perennials
It feels like we have a small part of the acres planted, but when I look at that list I feel pretty satisfied that we have been working forward in our 15 months living here. One thing we are working towards is creating a botanical sanctuary space where we can give plant walks and where we work to preserve wild plants from our region and county. We are lucky to be very near a large state wildlife area that is several thousand acres with no trails, no parking (other than a few gravel spots on the highway). In studying some of the rare Wisconsin plants found in that area, I am able to focus also look to grow some of these endangered plants that are found within a mile of our land. Our area is a part of the wetland drumlin complex left when the Wisconsin glacier receded, and we have tamarack and mixed deciduous forest, drumlins (our house is along the edge of a drumlin), and the wildlife area even has a tamarack bog. Yes, I am a botany geek. It has so many unique grasses, sedge, and plants such as sensitive fern, marsh ettle, bellwort, bloodroot, blue cohosh, rue-anemone, canada mayflower, and even a rare bog rosemary. Wisconsin even has an orchid species, that has been reported in that area. We know that area also has muskrat, otter, mink, deer, cranes, wood ducks, fish, and many other animals and species that reflect how amazingly diverse this area has always been. If we can plant and diversity even a few acres of land, we will have a pretty spectacular place here. Big goals. One step at a time.
This has been our first growing season at this property. It was a good idea to start smaller, and build a few garden areas first, and see how the wind, water, sun, animals, and insects are. Some things did amazingly well - we still have tomatoes up to our eyeballs in late September - and some things, meh (beans? where are the beans?). The medicinal herbs bed was a good start as well. It was enough to manage 5 different locations of herbs as I went through a summer finding an amazingly wide variety of medicinals growing wild on our land or road.
As we wander towards October, things are winding down and and yet we also still have so much happening. I love the location of the main food bed, and it will be easy to expand along down the side every year, and to slip a greenhouse in that area as well. I can tell what herbs I need to grow more of next year, what I should pull, and where to transplant out some of the bush seed starts that will be ready to upgrade to their own areas next year (St. John's Wort!).
Draper, our dog, and I, have walked miles and miles this summer on the land. My step tracker says I hit 40-50K a week, and that is mostly here. Back and forth, up and down, side to side, all the way around. I am so happy at how many medicinals and natives we have growing here, and am pretty happy with the start of both the front and back orchards. We had one tree seller that had a horrible die rate (and a really ridiculously work-intensive hoop jumping return guarantee), but other plants have all done really well. WE have apple, plum, peach, pear, cherry, elderberry, nannyberry, aronia, goji, raspberry, currants and more - all that will hopefully have fruit by next year.
I am especially happy that I still feel good here, like walking, rarely see another person, haven't had any issues with animals, only minimal insects (deer flies in July - I'm talking about you - and I haven't missed since you disappeared). It still feels right and good. And beautiful and big. The views are still wow, the smell of the air and the wonderful blue skies and light breezes are amazing.
We will now start thinking about prepping the chicken coop and run for winter. I have some ideas that I need to test out - I want some areas sheltered from huge snowdrifts, but also want to still be able to see them so if anything gets in there with them, I know. I want to rig an insulation panel system that uses velcro for panels that go up and down for ease of cleaning (and there is rafter ventilation). The solar light system is good, and we had an outlet put along the back wall so we can run a water de-icer out there and a light for winter. We have great motion sensor lighting system, but want more inside the coop light. My husband wants to move them against the house for winter, but I don't want mice and think they should stay where they are, so we shall see.
I can't wait to pick all our pumpkins we grew, see the leaves change, and pull in for fall and winter. I am in need of a nice winter of fireplaces, baking, and working on my writing projects. Here is to a good first year. xo
I have always wanted to keep bees. I love their magical dances, quiet dedication to the greater good, their dedication to the queen and enigmatic communication that we humans don't understand. We have always worked on having habitat for native pollinators, who do need our help. And while some think bringing a box of bees into an environment is not natural, what the bees do when we "keep" them, it really pretty independent from us as much as we pretend to have control over the situation.
When we moved here I knew I wanted to keep bees. I was happy to see that the neighbors who have their permaculture forest guild wilderness across the road had a few hives down the road. I know most of the native plants and medicinals we plant are loved by both natives and honeybees, and we also planted two areas of orchard. We have bush fruit in the back orchard area - cherries, elderberries, nannyberries - and in the front orchard we have aronia, goji, raspberry, blackberry, blueberry, apple, peach, plum, and serviceberry. We also have wild raspberries, mulberries, and blackberries. And, we have many other plants and flowering trees. Truly enough support and food for our pollinators.
So, of course as it goes, we installed bees when they arrived at the post office. We had everything ready to go, and we transferred them into the hive. As a new beekeeper, while I spent years reading about beekeeping, I have been reading ongoing now as well, so that I follow the season and know what to look for as I have been inspecting and checking throughout the summer.
I was a little nervous on my first inspection, but know that they can smell our fear, and so I focus on telling them how amazing they are, thank them for pollinating my plants, and radiate love. It might sound cheesy, but I do think that helps keep them calm. I do inspect suited up - I know some don't wear gloves or a suit - but I move with intention, carefully, and thankfully. The inspections have gone well all summer. I find what I should, I proceed through the hives, and I find the queen or evidence of the queen.
I know as I get more experience working with them, I will expand with more hives and probably experiment with different processes or setups. I love the idea of natural beekeeping, but know that with mites and other issues that can arise being so common, I should be a responsible beekeeper and do my best to keep them healthy before I experiment or try new things. So many long-time experienced beekeepers are losing their hives - or a lot of their hives - every winter, so I hope to make it through a winter.
Now that we are in September, I have checked the hive again and we will start looking towards preparing them for winter and protecting them from invaders looking for warmth and food. I am happy to finally be keeping bees, after dreaming of them for many years. Every time I walk the dog on the back acre I see our hive setup and am grateful for all of the changes we have made in the past year to get here. My whole family jumped in headfirst to get us to this new place, and our life is so different than it was one year ago. We overwintered successfully in this new place, now we need to get the bees through their first winter here as well.
I am a certified aromatherapist, clinical herbalist, organic gardener, plant conservationist, photographer, writer, designer, artist, nature lover, permaculture designer, health justice activist, whole foods maker, and mother of two unschooled boys in south central Wisconsin.