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Firefly Gathering 2013

I just returned from this year’s Firefly Gathering. I knew what to expect this time around, and it was just as awesome as last year. See my post about last year’s event for a general overview of what Firefly is.

The classes I took this year were on permaculture principles, home orchards, establishing a homestead for the first time, agroforestry, succession planting with annuals, fire by friction, and making survival bracelets. This year, Firefly was in a new location: a largely undeveloped stretch of land on the side of a mountain bordering the Pisgah National Forest.

Just like last year, this is a long but very interesting post.

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Things Best Left For Darker Hours

I get anxious before traveling and usually can’t sleep the night before, so I’ve been working down my to-do list so there’s less to do in the morning.  I got to “pick stuff from garden” and realized I don’t have to wait for morning to do that.  So, I grabbed a flashlight that straps to my head, a bucket, and got out there.

Mixed greens, Greek columnar basil, Cuban basil, and African blue basil, Ichiban eggplant, green beans, and fresh coriander. I also picked some mustard, but none of it actually made it into the bucket. It’s too delicious to wait to eat.

There’s something intimate about crouching down in the middle of my garden on a moonless night, everything still dripping from recent rain, surrounded by the plants that I’ve cared for and that nourish me, and not being able to see past the fence. I felt enveloped by the tomatoes and mustard, and I think I got lost in the spinach’s caress. And the coriander, well, we had something special. And the bugs are so active at night! Stinkbugs, slugs, katydids, spiders, there are so many and they are so wondrously diverse! I picked until my fingers were wrinkly and my heart swelling with joy from all the rain clinging to the leaves. I never thought I could have such strong emotional connections to plants until I let gardening become important to me, until I let the plants become part of my identity and understood us as part of a greater whole. It is divine.

DIY Bath Hygiene

To follow the previous post on homemade deodorant, and to precede the next post on this year’s Firefly Gathering, this post is about abandoning the use of soap.  Not entirely, mind you, just for bathing.  It’s still important to use soap for sanitation to prevent the spread of disease.  Wash your hands with soap regularly, y’all.

This post is more wordy and has no pictures, because you don’t want pictures of what I talk about in the next paragraph.

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Homemade Deodorant, Smells Optional

For those of you who follow the whole homesteading DIY organic intentional living sustainability blagoblogosphere, you probably know that DIY hygiene products are a thing right now.  So while I’m all about DIY everything, and while I’m all about using all organic ingredients in anything that goes in, on, over, or near my body, I actually didn’t get into homemade hygiene products until my sister told me they might help with my skin allergies.  And they did.

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The end of a very wet Spring in the garden

I’ve been busy this Spring!  I have three double-dug beds in the main garden (though one is sparsely populated), two fruit trees, a shade bed with nothing new aside from what survived the winter, and a few herbs I’ve planted around the edge of the garden.

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Much to my surprise, the serviceberry flowered while it was still in its pot from the nursery, then began putting out fruit just days after I transplanted it.  The deer got some of them before I built a fence around it, but about 20 berries survived and ripened.  I’ve been eating them right off the tree as soon as they ripen, because that’s the best way to eat berries.  Today, nine of them became ripe, which is the most that have done so at once.  I managed to restrain myself just long enough to take a picture of them before devouring them.

I expected them to have a stronger flavor based on how enthusiastically other blogs praise the virtues of the serviceberry.  Perhaps I’m just not caught up in the hype, or perhaps I have a milder cultivar, or perhaps they are milder because the plant was transplanted while the berries were growing.  This individual is Amelanchier lamarkii, which, if I’m understanding all the jargon correctly, is a cultivated hybrid and would not be found in the wild.  Perhaps I will be able to track down some wild serviceberries now that I know how to identify them better.

The flavor is still quite interesting, though.  It’s definitely similar to blueberry, but more mellow, and with a fruitier flavor.  The best description I’ve come up with so far is “blueberry plus tropical punch”.  When I ate one of the unripe red berries, it tasted like blueberry plus strawberry or raspberry.  My father says they have an apple aftertaste, which I don’t detect at all.  My mother says they are almost flavorless, which surprises me, since she has a very sensitive sense of taste and thinks many flavors are overpoweringly strong.

Each berry also contains a few tiny seeds, about half the size of and roughly the same shape as a grain of white rice.  I assume I could just swallow them and pass them like eggplant seeds, but I spit most of them out.

I’m very excited about how well the plant is doing.  It hasn’t put out any new growth (I’ve noticed many plants do most of their new growth at specific times of the year), but it seems very healthy.  The fact that it produced ripe, tasty fruit while transplanting is, I hope, a good sign of its future.  I’m looking forward to many serviceberries in the years to come.

You can view a series of 5 pictures taken over the course of a week in today’s set, demonstrating the process of ripening.

Requiem for a pawpaw

Something snapped one of my pawpaws in half.  I can’t figure out what did this.  There aren’t any discernible marks on the tree.  All parts of a pawpaw taste terrible to mammals (except the fruit), so I don’t know.  Maybe a goose did it?  I might not get any pawpaws now because I only have one and they aren’t self-pollinating.  Ugh.  I about cried when I saw this.