Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Harvesting Willow with Angels

The sunflower stalks are dry and the seed heads are spent. It is the time of year to clear out some of the dead growth to make way for new shoots. Last Friday I carefully broke up the sunflower stalks and put them on a compost pile where the insects inside the stems can continue hibernating until the weather warms up. It is unseasonably warm right now. We are at least three weeks ahead of where we were last year.

I came to the Means of Production garden to harvest the willow with the EYA and Ruth and her group of mentally challenged adults she cares for in North Vancouver. Gardening is a big part of their life and they do really good work. Most of the group is (frankly) more focused and productive than I am. I'm out of practice from having the winter off and I spend time dilly-dallying about and enjoying the weather. I give some sunflower stalks to one of the guys to break up and he keeps coming and putting his forehead really close to mine in for a unique greeting. He makes me smile.

Ruth is Swiss, with intensely beautiful blue eyes. She is a biodynamic farmer and a eurythmy instructor. Eurythmy is a movement system that incorporates phonetics with movement. One of the men with Downs does a demonstration for me with fluid, graceful gestures. Ruth talks about the people in her care with reverence, as if they have a special relationship to the Divine, and she really believes that gardening is the best way for them to become a creative community. She talks passionately about the way that the energy of a garden can be a healing influence on a local and global scale.

So why should Ruth's program get funding cuts? Who would have the shortsightedness to fail to acknowledge the work of someone who is one of our society's treasures? Bloody hell, what can I say? These cuts are driving me mad.

These are the stumps of the yellow willow after they've been harvested. The green willow and the black willow are preferable because they grow nice long straight poles that don't need to have the little branches clipped off. Ruth says the black and green willow have more uses and the yellow willow is more for decorative work.

New growth comes at the base of the sedum in the bee garden. Crocuses are blooming too!

The tea plant is looking very healthy.

Those willow poles are huge!

Here's another shot to show you the scale of the willow.

This brings us to a full circle in the Beespeaker saijiki blog. We can look back to see photos of the willow harvest from last year and the pictures of the big snowstorm during the Christmas of 2008. It's humbling and inspiring to see that nature happens when we make other plans. That's a good thing to remember as we look ahead to another year of programming in the Means of Production Garden.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Bare Fennel

The Natural Gardener by Val Bourne is one of my favorite gardening books. She says you should leave some of your dry fennel stalks standing over the winter because they will house insect larva through the winter. I looked at the pith in one of the stalks and saw that it had been burrowed into by two tiny insects, perhaps native been. In the meantime, the new fennel fronds are starting to grow.

After the crazy storm last night, the afternoon turned unseasonable warm and there were a couple of healthy looking bees flying in and out of the hive. If they're strong enough they could find some hazel catkins or winter-blossoming jasmine. I cleared some of the dead bodies from the entrance to the hive. There were a couple of bees barely clinging to life on the cinder blocks. Temperatures fall towards evening and they will no longer be able to move back into the warmth of the hive. This will be their last day.

The rains have washed the mud from the sunflower roots and left their delicate tracery for us to admire. I feel like a stranger in my own garden because it's been so long since I've been back there to take a look. It feels bare and exposed. I am embarrassed that the back corner is so overgrown with ivy and the evil invasive "money plant" or Lamium. The stones and shells I've placed here and there are like buried treasure that has been revealed by the rain. Soon the forsythia will bloom and the roses will need to be pruned and then spring will be well on its way.