Friday, May 11, 2012

My wife and I are doing a summer internship organic Gardening, here in the Adirondack Mountains for an organic gardener/homesteader and Childrens author named Star Livingstone. She is retired and grows most of her own food on 2 acres. He husband, Jeff is a boat builder/carpenter and works seasonally in Cape Cod. I decided to start this blog to share with others. I work four hours a day on the farm and I have a writing room set up for me for nature writing. I try to write for four hours a day until lunch and then work in the afternoon. My goal is to write nature articles and get them published in localutdoor publications. These first few entries might seem a little disjointed because today I just posted a bunch of my journal entries over the last month or so. So its not in sequence but they are here for anyone who wants to read them. Today's Journal entry:
I find that if I go a day without writing I become overcome with dispair. I feel like there is a lot of pressure on me. I can't create wonderful things under stress. Nature writing is not something you can schedule really tightly. Its relationship based. Its based on a relationship with nature. Relationships take time. Possibly I could do travel writing on a tight schedule. Fly in, hike, canoe, bike, eat, look at art, etc. Fly out, write, send, publish, get paid, bingo blammo. I feel like I am settling in still and haven't gotten into a rythmn totally yet. Plus I am writing about stupid shit about my marriage. I haven't journalled all that much about what I am doing here.

So here is what I do. My wife and I, are staying in a little cabin Star built or had Jeff build. She calls it “the Chapel. Its about 10X10 feet maybe, maybe 8X8. And has a couple narrow windows on the roof and one in the back to let the light in. The front is mostly glass except for the doors. The doors are wooden, from old boards, really well weathered and handles of natural branches in the “Adirondack rustic” style. On the back wall she has a little wood burning of a lion. And across from it on the same wall is a little palm folded into a cross like people get on palm sunday. She goes to a Presbyterian church, so she probably got it there. I remember getting these when I was a kid at the Episcopalian church I grew up in. Its a thing Liturgical churches do, Catholic and mainline protestant. I don't remember getting palms at Baptist churches. I like the kind of understated spiritual ambiance of the place. It's set up to be a little retreat or meditation room. It has a wooden bunk, nailed to the floor, that is the size of a double bed, with a foam mattress on it. Also there is a really warm down comforter on it. I mean really cozy. When we got here in early April, it got down to below freezing at night and we were really snug and warm. Except for our noses! Thats a wonderful feeling I always thought, the sense of being warm and just a little bit cold at the same time. It makes you really appreciate the warmth. There is a little propane heater in there as well.

 We aren't using it much now as its gotten warmer, but we used turn it on for ten minutes or so in order to get dressed. There is a little desk in there and a chair on one end of the bead, just a little to the side of it, The bed is almost as long as the cabin. At the foot of the bed is a chest. On the chest Linda has placed this plastic tubs to store our clothes. She has three and I have one. She uses the desk in the morning to have her daily Bible study.

The Chapel overlooks the garden, Star calls the back garden or the perennial garden. Its a flower Garden basically. I don't really know my flowers. So I can't comment on it much. But its really nice. Its shaded by some big trees and such as a big cherry and some big white pines.The Cherry growing right next to the chappel has ivy growing up it. The Garden is surrounded by a bamboo fence with chicken wire to keep the deer out. Repairing the deer fence has been one of my jobs. I replaced some of the bamboo with maple saplings I cut down from their land. She showed me the process of how to pick them. She wanted me to pick tall saplings that are growing too close to more mature healthy trees. These trees are unlikely to survive and so I am simply thining the forest and allowing other trees to grow healthy. Also Maple isn't happy in this area because the soil is slightly acidic. They don't do well. Earlier this spring Star put out some lime so her lawn wouldn't turn into moss instead of grass.
In the perennial garden. There are some brick paths Star has built from bricks she fould on her land here left by the farmer he mother bought the place from over 40 years ago. These are old bricks. She made a circular path around a flower bed. And another along an asparagus bed. She works sand into the cracks between the bricks to keep them easy to weed. She maintains other paths with Pine needles from white pines. One day we visited a neighbor, who has several big pines. We collected 4 big bags full with a rake to spread on the path. It smells nice, its a nice rusty color and feels soft under foot. Other paths are composed of stone.

 Star and Jeff go to a place in Tug Hill called “flat rock creek” and collect flat river stones. They drive down there and bring an inflatable raft. And float it along and collect flat stones. I have never gone but would really like to go. They have been there twice since we've been here. So they bring a carload back and some of them have little fossils in them. Some of them look like they are nothing but fossils, mostly mollusk shells, reminiscent of scallops, but also, some little shapes like snail shells and very occasionally other little creatures. So what I do is a dig a shallow, depression, the shape of the path I am to make and make it as flat and level as possible. We eyeball everything here. This isn't professional masonry work. Its in keeping with the natural perma culture style of the place. So when its dug out and fairly level I put down this black felt like cloth she has. Its a barrier for weeds. So I put that down and either fold it or cut it to fit. The I place a layer of sand. They get tubs of sand from some local road, that gets heavily sanded in the winter. Making do, with found objects on their land and easily obtainable local materials is a theme for them. So I put the sand down and then I lay the stones down. I try to do it like a jigsaw puzzle. Its really fun! I get kind of obsessive about it. I put them down and replace them and switch them around over and over again, until I get a pleasing pattern. They brought back some really nize triangular stones that fit really well. So after I lay them out I fill in the cracks with more sand than if a stone tips when you walk on it, I dig out the sand in the center and put it around the edges intil it stays flat. Its tips with it sits on a lump of sand and acts like a see saw. So eventually I get them all to lay flat more or less. After a couple good rains they usually settle in really well. The results have been pretty pleasing. I made a couple new paths this spring and Star and Jeff made a couple. They look really nicw with these gates Jeff makes, using intertwinging branches, screwed together to a wooden frame. There is something about the natural wood and the stone together that is really pleasing to the eye. Feng Shui or something. Star has taken classes in ikebana
Everything on the little Farmstead has an interesting story about it. Bordering the Perenial garden is an old shack that's falling down Star calls “poor soul” more on that later. So then as I was writing this I walked down to get a coffee refil and Star showed me some work for me to do later (I write mornings and work afternoons.) said she had a surprise for me. So she showed me some stuff she wanted me to grub out and a place she wanted me to put the chicken tractor. Then in a bed she had been edging around a Crab apple tree, she showed me a morel poking out of the soil. Pretty cool. She is going to identify it now. She has a whole library of field guides. I had walked over to her to tell her that yesturday, I saw the Phoebe. She had been worried about these migratory birds because they feed on flying insects. They came in the spring and enjoyed some unseasonally warm weather only to have temperatures plunge for a couple weeks of sleet and snow and freezing over night. Insects don't fly in snowstorms. So Star feared they had starved. I thought I saw a couple in the woods hunting on the ground, when I was out cutting fir saplings for tipi poles, but they turned out to be hermit thrushes, a similar looking bird, but with brown speckles on the throat which phoebes don't have. So yesturday, on a rainy day when Star was out at a meeting, I saw what looked like a Phoebe in one of her gardens hunting along the ground, It then flew up to a fence post and I confirmed its identity with binoculars. Its good to know they do hunt along the ground when the inscets aren't flying on a cold rainy day. So I guess these birds are tough enough to make it here after all.

A big part of life here at the homestead is identifying plants, animals, birds etc. Its one of Star's favorite past times. She has a couple, three, big shelves full of field guides. Birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians, mush roomes, wild flowers, wild herbs, shrubs, weeds, you name it. She identifies every rodent her two cats bring in. Its usually a part of everyday breakfast conversation. There are a surprising number of enemic rodents, three species of shrews, possibly five, red backed voles, deer mice, door mice, a lemming. Some look quite similar, like deer mice and door mice I think. I should confirm this later. The deer mice has a morph that makes it look a lot like a species of deer mouse here. Her yearling female cat, a vigourous, shiny grey tabby named pickles, is the best mouser. She is always catching things and bringing them on to Star's bed in the loft either alive or dead. She brought a live chipmunk in the house once that managed to evade capyure for several months. Its actually mating season, or was not too long ago for the short tailed shrew, so the carnage began to pile up as Pickles caught her daily tally of wandering amorous shrews ionto the house. We all have coffee, free trade coffee, Star buys, and eat eggs, has browns, or oatmeal. The running joke is that Linda never eats normal breakfast food, but always eats the left overs from the night before.

I am probably eating far healthier lately than at amy previous point in my life, up to now. My diet is composed entirely of locally grown, fresh produce, organic whole grains like lentils, home grown corn, and organic usually free range meat like free range pork, and chicken, free range eggs. My favorite thing to eat is this Slaw Star makes from dandilion greens growing on her lawn. Right now before they bloomed they are pretty sweet with just a slight bit of bitterness. I really like them. So I have decided to start a Blog called the “Adirondack Homestead Journal” and start writing articles. That way I can stay in the present moment, in the here and now. Articles to consider: The ruffed grous I ate Building a Tipi The cats Local bird life Sweet cicely. Today I ran. I ran three days a week this week like I said I would, even though I was really tired this morning and ankles were sore. I was also depressed from not writing the day before and not working due to rain and not getting along with Linda.

So I ran for about 20 minutes and thaen sat down by a stream near a beaver dam and looked at all the old stumps chewed down by beavers years ago and listened to the peepers. I needed to take some time to meditate. It was refreshing. I really think beavers are amazing. They have some amazing type of collective intelligence. Stored somewhere in the ether in their morphogenetic field no doubt. I think Sheldrake is right. Its not in their little rodent brains. It can't be.

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