Tag Archives: fruit trees

Autumn in New England


Fall in New England is pure pleasure. The  colors, textures, sounds and even smells evoke a sense of tradition, comfort and home. For those who can’t make it here to Connecticut and other northeastern states to witness the changing of the leaves, there are people like me who are happy to capture the beauty and share. Enjoy!

Updated photos (forgot to export with watermark)


Permaculture for the Future


“Permaculture is a philosophy of working with, rather than against nature; of protracted and thoughtful observation rather than protracted and thoughtless labor; and of looking at plants and animals in all their functions, rather than treating any area as a single product system.”-Bill Mollison

Common milkweed that I allow to grow in a portion of my back yard attracts and hosts Monarch butterflies

Common milkweed that I allow to grow in a portion of my back yard attracts and hosts Monarch butterflies

We have all seen the words sustainability and permaculture in the news a lot, at least if you pay attention to articles on agriculture, GMO seeds, Monsanto, global warming, and green technology. I can sniff out an article on these topics from 1,000 miles away. I swear, I really can.

Growing thousands of acres of GMO corn, or any single crop, is called monoculture: planting the same crop on the same soil using the same methods year after year after year, depending on chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides to get as much out of that land as possible for the least amount of money and human effort. Sugar cane, soy, canola, corn, wheat, cotton, tea, and tobacco are all cash crops that are monocultures (the opposite of biodiversity). The soil is not replenished with organic matter, not fed, and allowed to rest as in organic farming. The crops do not complement other crops, fruit trees, berry bushes, water plants, butterflies, and bees. And we can all see that these are farmed by corporations, not family farmers who also raise cattle, grow hay in fields, keep chickens, turn the manure into crops, and so on.

In organic farming, insects actually survive (they aren’t all bad, you know), the soil is replenished with manure and compost, plants are fertilized with fish emulsion and dried blood meal. The land is allowed to rest every few years. Crops are rotated, companion planted, and the soil is a living thing.

Permaculture is a new term being bandied about, consisting of structures, garden beds, orchards, homes and land that encourage green living, growing your own food, with a slower, local economy, decentralized (meaning it stays in the community and doesn’t end up in some CEO’s bonus check).

According to the Permaculture Institute, “permaculture is an ecological design system for sustainability in all aspects of human endeavor. It teaches us how to design natural homes and abundant food production systems, regenerate degraded landscapes and ecosystems, develop ethical economies and communities, and much more. As an ecological design system, permaculture focuses on the interconnections between things more than individual parts.”

I know this sounds nebulous. And I know it sounds really hippie-dippy, but deep down it makes so much sense.

Terraced bed -- permaculture

Terraced bed — permaculture

When I turned my ugly flower bed into a terraced vegetable garden I was practicing permaculture. When I added two raised beds, a bean teepee and doubled the size of my front garden, I was practicing permaculture. Taking my kitchen scraps, adding them to shredded leaves and weeds in a pile behind the former goat house is a part of permaculture (and those pallets stacked up near my compost pile would definitely be considered permaculture if I built that two-section compost bin). I am trying to embrace the concept of permaculture on my property as I walk it and search for wild edibles, think about whether I can and should attempt to grow cranberries near the bog, or go forward with planting cattails at the edge of the pond (because they are a great food source and provide shelter for creatures that do not hang out at our pond at present). Choosing to grow heirlooms vs. hybrids is practicing permaculture. The idea that I might be able to trade some of my organic pear preserves or garlic for something my family needs but does not produce is practicing permaculture. Although I don’t plan to add chickens back to my family food production plan, I might be able to trade for eggs this summer. I am allowing wildflowers, wild herbs, and even indigo to grow down at the pond.
Bean teepee -- while the twine must be replaced each year, the saplings will last several seasons

Bean teepee — while the twine must be replaced each year, the saplings will last several seasons

Collecting rainwater, composting, replacing invasive shrubs with something that might make the bees and butterflies happy, planting to reduce erosion, and restore the watershed is practicing permaculture.

Did I pique your interest? You’re sitting on the edge of your seat. Admit it! Take a few minutes to visit the Permaculture Institute to see how you can adopt some of the practices permaculture advocates.

I would be happy if all of my friends stopped buying anything made by Scott (lawn and garden junk), stopping paying the lawn truck to come spray nitrogen-rich, herbicide sprays on their lawns (causing algae bloom in nearby waterways, ponds and lakes, and killing birds), and allowed dandelions to grow in their lawns. Can you imagine a world full of those pretty yellow flowers that can be used to make jelly and wine, bees buzzing around sipping nectar and carrying pollen on their legs? How happy it would be!

Wild violets are everywhere!

Wild violets are everywhere!

Plant Trees for the Future

Bartlett Pear Tree

Bartlett Pear Tree

This past summer I was truly blessed with something that I had completely forgotten about: pears. About 10 years ago I planted two pear trees, an oriental variety and Bartlett pear. They came as bare root stock, just looked like dried up sticks. I soaked them in a bucket of water, even forgot about them for about a week, but finally dug two holes about 15 feet apart in my back yard and planted them with the help of my five young children. I watered them diligently until cold weather arrived and the ground froze. My little sticks of trees grew at least 2-3 feet the first year. They shot up the next year as well. Year after year we got no buds as is normal for fruit trees. As a matter of fact, few people plant fruit trees because they, as did I for a long time, are not sure they will be there to enjoy the fruit of their labors (pun intended). One year we saw pear blossoms and I was so excited! Then we saw a handful of tiny pear-like fruits that never became anything.

I admit I knew nothing about growing fruit trees. I never once pruned those baby trees, to my shame. My second oldest son did help me prune the only surviving tree (yes, we lost the oriental pear tree) the year before, but I had no idea what I was doing. That one pruning, I suspect, is what triggered the amazing abundance of homegrown, organic pears last summer.

If I hadn’t stepped out and made that investment in those trees my family would not be enjoying organic, homegrown, homemade pear preserves this winter. We wouldn’t have enjoyed jar after jar of pear sauce or fresh, ripe pears in the boys lunches day after day (and they never once complained about those pears they were that good).

Most towns, cities, counties and states plant ornamental shrubs and trees. I challenge all of us to plant something that could provide food in the future, for those who come after, or if you are lucky as I was, for you to enjoy! If you own or rent a small patch of dirt, think about planting an heirloom variety of some kind of fruit-bearing tree or shrub. Water and fertilize that baby and know that one day you might make a difference between someone going hungry and having food to eat.

Here are some nurseries that sell heirloom fruit trees:

Let’s all plant something for our children and our children’s children and our communities.