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April 30, 2012

Apparently, leaving wildlife alone is not on the agenda for some rich people. 

An elephant is killed.  http://www.wildlifeextra.com/go/news/trump-elephant-hunt.html#cr

Sand dunes are flattened to make way for a golf course in Scotland.  Habitat for endangered birds are destroyed.  http://www.usatoday.com/sports/golf/2007-10-10-2052550731_x.htm

See those dunes now flattened down:  http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2012/02/10/422677/digging-up-golf-course-donald-trump-wind-farms-are-destroying-scotland/?mobile=nc

On the other hand, there are many people worldwide who are the opposite of this type of user.  There are people who truly care for the delicate beings who try to exist and live their little lives as best they can.

See the man who planted 16,000 trees on his island:  http://ca.news.yahoo.com/blogs/good-news/british-man-buys-island-whim-40-years-ago-191547211.html

I’ve been told that in order to overpower a negative, one must recount 10 positives.  I truly believe that for every horrendous act against nature, where someone wantonly destroys an innocent life or a habitat, there are 10 acts of good that are also taking place.

How else could there be a balance on this earth?

And I also believe that our young people are the impetus for the good that is happening.   I see more and more young men and women working hard to improve the soil for growing healthy (no pesticides) vegetables.   There are so many blogs where people are generously sharing how to repurpose things … to not just throw things away.

They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks!  Humbug!  I’m an “old dog” and I’m learning new things every single day.  Every day is an adventure.  Still studying all the “new” information on improving the soil .. and learning about what is happening in the ground beneath my feet.  Wish this information had been taught in school .. and happy that I’m able to learn now.

Reading my “Living Earth” by Peter Farb (printed in 1950!) about the “fascinating world of life within the soil beneath us”.

I’m also slowly entering the world of native plants and will attend a workshop on salvaging native plants.   Meeting people who are active in restoring natural habitat.  And I’ve been learning about the varieties of mosses and will be attending a workshop on seaweed soon.

oh, hmmm .. I’d planned to discontinue blogging during the summer, as I wanted to devote my time to the garden, but here I am, drawn back to tap on the keyboard.

Just for a few minutes.   Then, time to go check on my latest batch of EM (effective microorganisms) … the latest batch is nearly ready to use in the garden.

I’d started off making 1 litre batches and now have moved up to a 4 Litre (milk jug) and a 2 Litre (juice bottle).   I’ve prepared a diluted mixture for a friend to use on her house plants, looking forward to hearing the results.

The dilution of the mix varies depending on the usage and I’ve been using quite a bit on my garden, the trees, garlic plantings, on berry bushes that I’ve moved around the yard.   And the blueberries, salmon berries and raspberries are in full bloom.  I’ve heard that it isn’t good to disturb blueberries, but the plants that I’ve dug up and replanted are very healthy.  Could this be due to the wonderful qualities of the EM?  I think so!

Healthy soil = healthy plants = less insect damage (insects aren’t drawn to “sick” plants).

Here is the most wonderful website to visit, to learn lots more about EM and organic fertilizers, and so very much more:  http://www.gardenerspantry.ca/  Christina is so very knowledgeable and very sharing of information … a joy to talk with. 

Well .. .away with this day .. lots to do.

🙂

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Thursday, March 29, 2012

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Wednesday .. was .. at times … sunny .. then cloudy .. some rain .. followed by sun.  A potpourri kind of day, weatherwise.

Spent some time outside, relocating some of the taller plants in the back of the yard.   I’m making a kind of little secret garden, of sorts.   Starting with tall perennials along the fence, with a little pathway in front of that.   Then I’ve moved the garden bed back a foot, and began the process of moving the taller bamboo plants closer to the edge of that.

Then I’m moving a line of raspberries in front of them.   There will then be a staggered height of plants, tall to medium and then shorter (garlic, herbs).   The tall plants will give protection to the lower plants.

My garden is in constant change and it’s easy to move them.  Except I had to tug away at the Buddleia, thought.  The roots are mainly fibrous, with one long tap root that extended farther than I wanted to dig, so I just cut the end of the root . . still have a two foot length left and these plants are tough as nails, anyway.

Why am I doing this?  Well, in a burst of creative thought a few days ago, I thought that if I could rearrange the veggie garden (part of it, anyway) then I could install my propagating area here.  In a nice and tidy fashion, that is.  And I find that these projects sort of take on a life of its own … I simply start the process and my inner artist takes over.   The results are always creative and I’m always surprised and impressed with the results.

And I’ve decided to install rustic fencing along parts of the garden, to visually break up some of the areas.  I’ll be re-using the branches and bamboo canes that I’d used to make a  holding area for my mountain of mulch leaves from last fall.  I have my eye on several very tall bamboo canes currently growing in one area of the yard, so luckily, I’m not lacking in fencing materials.

I like the look of the rustic fencing that was installed at the front of Swan Lake Nature Sanctuary, and when I’d last visited there on Tuesday, I looked at this fencing again and thought, perfect for the back yard!  So, thanks for the inspiration, Swan Lake!!

I was quite involved in digging away yesterday when the rains came .. I simply covered up my camera, binoculars, iPod and simply went on digging.   After all, what’s a little rain?  Then the sun came out and it felt like a warm summer day.

After what I’ve been learning in my gardening course, I’m not really happy about digging up and disturbing the soil .. saw the thin white strands of the mycorrhizal fungi in place, doing their part to help the roots of the plants.  And promised that I’d add some of the powdered M. fungi that I’d purchased from the Gardener’s Pantry.  I’ll soon have this soil healthy and vibrant  again.  Plus, liberal doses of EM!!

Took a break and read through some books on composting .. one mentions Bokashi, pallet & worm composting.  However, the “helpful” information listed is nowhere near as detailed as the information that I learned in the Organic Master Gardening Course (Gaia College, at Royal Roads University).  My gardening world has forever changed and I cannot go back to the way of thinking that I had before.

Funny, found a bag of plant fertilizer that I’d bought a few years back.   The cardboard box holding the plastic bag had long since disintegrated and all that is left is the bag and the contents of several cups of white and pale green “fertilizer”granules.  I shudder to think that I had used some of this on some plants.  Now I’ll have to dispose of this in “hazardous” materials.  Never, no more.

From now on, it’s EM, Compost Tea (Dr. Elaine R Ingham ), worm bins, mulch, grass cuttings, manure (organic preferably).    What a difference that course has made in my life.  And, luckily, I have access to the online videos and course material for a year.  It will take at least that for me to go through all of these invaluable resources.

Anyway .. on with this most wonderful day.  I think the rains have stopped .. can hear the birds singing away .. so out to my garden I go!   And if it is still raining, well, there’s no shortage of things to do inside.  Or maybe go for a walk.  Choices .. it’s a good thing!

🙂

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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

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We’ve been lucky with weather lately, and actually had 4 days of sunshine!  This all ended yesterday … and now we are back to overcast with some rain.

DH & I went flying over town on Friday .. and we could see this huge band of dark cloud formation, quite unusual.  It was as if someone with a gigantic paintbrush had simply painted a long swathe of cloud.  It stretched from Hope, BC over to us and then continued.

This was the forerunner to the weather changes leading to our current slightly rainy weather.

It was wonderful to be flying again .. up in the air so high, everything down below seems like a little toy world.

Then on Saturday, full sun!   Felt kind of lazy, garden wise .. it’s the same every year.  Impatient to be outside getting my hands in the soil .. and then .. sort of like wandering around, daydreaming as to what I’ll be doing here and there.

Brought out my EM, mixed some with water and added to some plantings.

A friend of mine will be travelling and I’ll be looking after her plants .. so while she is off exploring, her plants will be at “club med” relaxing in the sun.  They are all placed together so they can communicate with each other.  I’ve given them all a healthy watering of EM, so that feels quite good .. nice healthy microbial action to liven up the soil and give these plants a good diet.

Can you see the photos of the cedars with the sweaters?  She just happened to have 2 matching woolen sweaters (English, don’t you know!) and placed them over the burlap covered rootballs, so that there wouldn’t be any soil loss, while they were being moved.   And now the trees are in planters for the summer and coming seasons, till the time is right for them to be moved again.  They are safe here.

So then I had to mix up more EM and watered all the plants in this side area of the garden.

Then I had a nice surprise conversation with my gardening neighbour, M .. the lovely lady who constantly gives me perennials, and lettuce and other vegetables during the growing season.  She also gives me tips on propagating (roses, she always takes cuttings, puts them in soil filled containers, with a glass covering and slowly, they grow roots!!).

So on Saturday, I’m trying to explain the wonderful new things I’ve learned in my OMG course and when I said the word “mycorrhizal” .. her eyes lit up!   And when I showed her the blueberry cuttings in sand (they are sprouting leaves already) she noted that there is more air in the sand so that is a good growing medium.

Then, she tells me that she was a teacher in the Ukraine!  And she taught biology, chemistry and (I think) botany!  OMG .. what a treasure and she is my neighbour!!!  She is working on improving her English .. which is radically different from the sentence structure in Ukrainian.  I am so looking forward to learning more gardening knowledge from her, as her English improves.

The key word was “mycorrhizal” .. and I’m so glad that I worked hard to understand & remember the significance of this word.

Anyway .. after all this … DH comes home and it’s off to the airport we go!   A local flight .. and yee-haw .. it’s magic to be back in the air.

And on Sunday, we were up up up and away .. gone the whole day.  Spent lovely time at the flying club … time to tend the garden, I must go out there sometime with my clippers and strings to support the sweet peas .. still growing from last year!  And time to transplant a few of the bigger plants.  Always something to do.  And I think I will apply some EM to the plants there also.

Well .. time to get going on this day.  I’ve read in the  paper that there is now a “green roof” full of native plants at the Swan Lake Nature Sanctuary.  I’ve noticed the structure being built, was curious .. really look forward to seeing this green roof first hand.

So now I’ll try not to spend 3 hours on my walk there!  But it’s so hard when there are so many beautiful things to see!

🙂

p.s. I came across this article a few weeks ago .. about Miracle Gro birdseed, the company knowingly added pesticides to the birdseed… , despite the advise of their ornathologists – how many wild and domestic birds have been poisoned?  I’m going to contact the sources of the birdseed that I’ve been buying, to find out what they have to say about their products.  Scary.  Who would have thought that an innocent product like birdseed would be contaminated?

http://grist.org/list/scotts-miracle-gro-pleads-guilty-to-selling-poisoned-bird-seed/

And I’ve just gone downstairs to check my bird feed supplies and what do I see but the name “Scotts” on the front of the package.  So I visited the website that is listed on label, and it is the Scotts Miracle Gro birdseed site.  Now I feel quite sick about having fed the wild birds this suet.  So I’ve e-mailed the store where I purchased the suet, asking that they discontinue selling  this product.  And I’ve just sent off an e-mail to the Scotts birdseed site.  www.scottswildbirdfood.ca berating them for knowingly adding the pesticides.

This is truly a “Buyer – Beware” situation.  From now on I’ll stick to the plain fat that I can get from the supermarket meat department.  Thrifty Foods is quite helpful in that respect.

As for the remaining unopened suet block that remains, well, I’ll be treating that like hazardous waste.

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       Monday, March 19, 2012

The weekend was a mixed bag of weather.   Some sun, some rain .. wonder if the plants were going crazy ..bloom?  grow?

On the overcast/sunny Saturday morning, I continued to learn more about plant identification.

Learned some more about invasive weeds and recognizing more wild plants.  The Alaskan Onion is now a familiar to me – grass-like type plant.  I hadn’t taken any photos (but I plan to do that!)

Here are some excellent sites for further information (oh, wow, I am in the learning mode now!)

http://www.geog.ubc.ca/biodiversity/GarryOakEcosystems.html

And ..finally, some photos:

http://linnet.geog.ubc.ca/ShowDBImage/gallery.aspx?page=0&specrep=0&code=PMPOA3X0J0

Onion grass looks like .. well, grass!  Right now, what I’ve noticed is that the blades seem a bit wider and “boxier” like and to find out if the grass is onion grass. … you just carefully move the grass away at the bottom of the plant and feel around for the little bulbs at the ground level, where they are protruding from the soil.  Once I can touch and look closely at a plant .. a wild plant anyway, I know it and can locate others.   So far, anyway, touch wood.  (ok, now where did that phrase originate!)

I learned how to identify licorice fern and tasted the inner portion of the root, which was bright green.   Just a tiny taste and the licorice flavour developed  more and more as time passed.  Quite dainty and delicious.  Oh, mother nature, you are good!

S and I worked away, lifting invasive ivy  … .loosening the soil.  She carefully removed the invasives from the struggling tiny leaf wild rose plants, tough plants, growing through the tight covering of the vines.   She also found some wild honeysuckle and these now will grow quite strong, now they are free to do so.

We worked away for a few hours, soon had a good size area clear, the rich forest soil loosened up.   Once hidden plants now able to breathe freely and grow as they should.

I brought away with me a tiny deer fern, surrounded by a little blanket of moss.  It’s potted up and I’ll be planting this treasure in the shaded woodland part of the yard.

S also gave me some pussywillow, rooted, and some in water to root.  I look forward to these growing in the yard and will bend them over as they grow, to form a little umbrella shape.

Another thing about us gardeners .. we share and share and share our plants.  Such a fun thing to do.  And I do intend to name them somehow .. must think of an easy way to do this.  Maybe carry around some cut-up plastic or aluminum sections of window blinds & a black marker, so I can easily write down the names and place the section in the plant.  I’ll work on that.

Anyway, I am getting very spoiled now.  Twice I’ve had the most amazing little cups of espresso.  Made from home-roasted beans and ground up especially fine.  Saturday, I just had to take a photo, to share .. see, how beautiful this is!  What a treat.

So, Saturday was a busy day.  A friend of mine is going travelling, so I will be “mother” to her plants while she is away.  And today .. I’m going to water them with EM.  As a matter of fact .. today .. is the day for me to add EM to all the outside plants.

I’ll put some of my precious EM in water, and spray the leaves and water the base of the plants.

Plus, time to move some raspberry plants.

Yesterday I noticed a yellow jacket (I think it was that, some kind of wasp) and didn’t have a chance to take a photo.  I think it must be the Queen. So now I’ll be very careful and looking for potential nests.  And now is the time to do all the digging in the side gardens, last year I waited too long and just had to leave them alone.  There was so much wasp activity, and I can’t bear to be stung again.

Looking forward to spending this whole day outside in the yard!!

And tonight .. finally .. we go to see William Roache (aka long-suffering Ken) from Coronation Street.  He’s acted in this show since the very beginning.  We are so looking forward to seeing him in person.  We have the first row seats and will have the opportunity to meet & talk with him after the show.  Oh, what shall I ask him?  Dare I comment about “Deidre’s” neck .. how the veins stand out when she’s yelling .. “oh, Ken!”    🙂

I was going to take a lot of CS memorabilia with me, but, will try to be mature and just take a few things.  But which few?  Decisions, decisions, decisions.

Well .. on with this day!!!

🙂

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Thursday, March 15, 2012

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  The winds returned yesterday .. .I spent a bit of time moving the bird feeding stations onto branches that were a little more sheltered so that the little winged darlings could feed!  

The hummingbird feeder in the backyard had been buffeted so much that all the nectar was gone .. so I put some in and hung it on a tree branch.  Then changed the location again, as I saw the little Anna zipping about .. looking for it. So I placed it a bit lower in the little archway.

Glad to see my garlic growing away.   I’m just waiting for a nice day to spend outside and I can start chopping up some kelp around the new green growth.  Still have a fair amount of garlic from last year.  Enough for us and some to share with friends.  I wonder if I’ll actually take the time to properly braid some strands this year? 

I’d started out doing that last year, with the best of intentions.   My desire to do so had diminished, as I dug up more and more small garlic bulbs.  I’d bought 4 lovely garlic types from Richters, so the problem wasn’t the quality of the bulbs.  Discovered that garlic likes sun … I’d planted them in relative shade.  Even though the soil was lovely, rich in mulch, it still needed that sun!  So this year, they are in the sun. 

And everywhere else also, it seems.  I can see garlic greens popping up everywhere in the side garden .. and I was so positive that I’d dug them all up!    More of the magic of gardening.

I’m so glad that I’ve continued on with this blog.  I’d started it after I retired, someone suggested it would be a good way to keep in touch former coworkers who also loved gardening.

I have discovered other gardening type blogs over the past year and it is so fun to find out how others are gardening, from all over the place.  Very interesting people.

There is Bridget, in Ireland, they live in the country and have the most lovely goats: http://arignagardener.wordpress.com/author/arignagardener/

and Claire – a creative chef  and intrepid gardener .. her fascinating blog:  http://promenadeplantings.com/

and Paul, who is a creative gardener and is sharing the gardening adventure with his children at:  http://seedtosalad.wordpress.com/

and Malou, who gardens in Holland: http://malouprestado.wordpress.com/author/malouprestado/

and Susanne, who currently is living in Australia: http://theemeraldgarden.wordpress.com/author/yomtoto/

It is such a joy to read their blogs and find out what is happening in the gardens where they live.  I take a little time travel each time I visit their blogs.

I feel as if we have become such good gardening buddies and I find so many interesting ways to do things and wonderful new foods!   Claire has lovely recipes for pumpkin biscotti (beautiful pumpkins from France, I haven’t seen any here). 

And they all have links to other blogs too!

Well, time is running out .. tonight is our last Organic Master Gardening Course (Gaia College) at Royal Roads and I will have to leave shortly.  Wah .. it’s been a huge adventure, this course.  A complete departure from the normal ways of gardening.  So I’ve begun this adventure and am very happy.

The most amazing instructors and a great group of learners we are.

So I’ll say nighty night till tomorrow.  When I will come back and talk about more gardening and the exciting things that happened today!  Yes, I met more gardening people… what a wonderful day this has been  … and I’ll share more pictures!

It’s been a lovely day.

🙂

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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

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Tuesday .. that wonderful day which follows Monday .. was a mixed bag of weather.

By the time I set off on my trek to Orr’s Butchers (to fetch some Farmer Ben’s eggs) there was a slight sprinkling of rain.  And, since I’m not made of sugar and won’t melt in the rain .. I just simply started walking.

Just simply stepping onto the pathway leading into the Nature Sanctuary felt absolutely wonderful .. the perfect way to start the day.   Looking around at the emerging new growth of leaves and the richness of the mosses & lichens draping branches and trunks .. felt the magical touch that nature bestows on all living things.

Only a few people at the time I was walking .. so peaceful and quiet .. couldn’t see many birds .. and saw the little Anna, who likes to perch atop one of the tall, narrow trees along a pathway.

Noticed the emergence of the growth of the marsh grasses.  Spent stalks of last year gracefully folded back, the structural breakdown  to feed the soil already well begun.

Finally reached the little observatory . . a few Geese majestically sailed over, expecting food.  And a little Ms. Mallard flew up to the wooden decking, looking for flatted oats .. which are sitting in a bag at home.  Reminder to keep a supply in my purse, cause ya never know!

Continued on my way … to Orr’s to pick up a few dozen Farmer Brown’s eggs .. to the Mediterranean deli!  Here I picked up a Mizithra cheese, an assortment of feta, humus, olive tapenade (the humus & tapenade are made there!) Plus some beautiful baklava etc.

Now my shopping bag is very heavy and I ponder the wisdom of shopping while walking.  Well, I’m not a delicate little flower, so I hoist the bag onto my shoulder and trudge onwards.  Soon I’ll be home.

Decision time .. take the shorter, overland path or descend to the walkway down below?  As always, I choose the latter and soon am nearing the little observatory again.  This time there is a birding group, including a former work mate .. so we chat for a few minutes.  Then all is quiet, as the birders listen to an assortment of bird calls, identifying each one.  Oh .. my .. I simply must join a birding group for a walk, “one of these” days.  I always learn so much.

Then . .homeward bound .. where I reward myself with a mug of Yorkshire Tea, my spanakopita and one of those delicate baklavas!!

Yesterday was another great learning session at our gardening class.   This session was devoted to lawns .. the creation, maintenance, troubleshooting .. the whole spectrum.

As our instructor opened up the doors to this new world, I found myself gaining great respect for this plant.  I learned that lawn is actually composed of thousands of plants, now that was not something that I was aware of before.  Grass was just, well .. grass.  Oh, no, that is not so.

We learned of the varieties of grass and why such a mix of types are used and how best to determine that.   About the zone of elongation .. who knew?  Why thatch develops.  Natural lawns are a bit longer than conventional lawns and are so much healthier.

Why and when to mow and .. understanding the “why” “when” “nurturing” makes only sense, now that I am more aware.

And for years I’d heard of people planning their lawns, layering, adding sand, plugging, fertilizing, etc.  Creating an artificial environment which really is toxic.

Imagine, feeding the lawn with chemicals and then letting children and pets play on this surface.   All those materials are in contact with the things you love .. is that good?   And then visualizing innocent birds pecking away at the poisonous concoction and being part of the food chain, passing on the chemicals, on up through the various life forms.

We discussed the benefits of natural materials, again, just like the “soil food web” nurturing the soil with materials  like EM (effective microorganisms) Compost Tea (Dr. Elaine Ingham), rock dust, on and on.

I have much more to study, transcribe my notes …. to further understand all of the information that was given to us last night.

Ok, grass, I respect you and your tenacity.  You are not just a blade beneath my feet.  You are an entity unto yourself and I intend to treat you with the care that you deserve.  And besides, anyway, as much as I’d like to rid the yard of lawn, it’s here to stay and I’ll make the best of it by taking care of it the natural way.

So .. on with this day.

Oh, yes, yesterday’s weather!   I was typing away at the keyboard, happened to look up and saw .. what?   Snowflakes!

Ran outside and sure enough, there was a steady stream of tiny, then shortly, larger flakes of snow tumbling down!

Grabbed the camera and started taking pics .. I knew that all over Victoria, there were many people doing the same thing.  ha ha .. what do you do when you live in a place like this and have a camera, anyway!

Then the sun finally came out and transformed everything . .and that was a day!

Well, on with this day!

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Monday, March 13, 2012

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  The sun was out yesterday and it seemed like a spring day.  The skies were blue, then cloudy, then blue, then cloudy, then blue .. and, well, you get the picture.  It was a mixed up type of spring day.

And a lazy day for me.  Spent a lot of time looking up gardening information.  Seems that’s mostly what I’ve been doing lately.  Learning and learning and learning.  One thing leads to another, which leads to another and so on and so forth.

It’s a wonder I have time to sleep, I’m learning so much lately.

Anyway, finally, I could stand it no longer, yesterday afternoon and finally went outside.  I planned to water some flats of scotch moss with my “precious” ..  which is a dilution of EM ( effective microorganisms)  ok, I’m not a scientist or a botanist or a biologist.  I just know that the microbes in this solution (my first batch) are liquid gold in respect to plantings.

These are so wonderful, that I’ve mixed my second batch, as mentioned a few days ago.  I plan to water all the trees, bushes, plants, vegetables, fruits etc. in my garden with this solution.

And so once I finished that little task . .I began to clear away a circle of grass at one of the fruit trees.  Started with an apple tree.  Dug away at the tenacious grassy  roots, trimmed away suckers, pulled weeds (all this stuff is going into the compost, btw).

Carefully pushed aside the many earthworms that were busy at their job of breaking up the soil, leaving their wonderful castings in the garden.  Finally, I stood up .. satisfied with my work and then watered a generous amount of EM on the ground.  Welcome to your new home, guys .. now settle in and get to work!

I’ll post the pics tomorrow.  Today I want to share the photos from our gardening class’s visit to Government House this past Saturday.  A mix of formal and semiformal gardens.  A lovely place to walk around.  Lots of roses there.  Although, they were shivering, and really needed a top layer of mulch, methinks.

Whenever I see bare ground on a garden, I feel sadness for the plants and the soil.  Nothing for the microbes, worms, etc. to nibble on .. such a barren look.  Breaks my heart, it does.

So, anyway, I’m all enthused about using my EM.   And learning more about compost tea.  And building a compost tea brewer.  Found some great sites, easy plans, to make one for under $30.  And saw some easy YouTube videos on how to build them.  They look very simple, straightforward.

I’m in a decluttering, sorting, organizing type of whirlwind today .. so will make this short and sweet.

🙂

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