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Avant-Gardening Tid-Bytes Newsletter - Back Issues 2001
Thanksgiving brought the snow that had been mentioned as "traditional" in most of our neighbors' pasts - told around the food laden table in the early afternoon as we anticipated the later arrival of the others in our small community for the dessert feast. Last night it was twelve below zero. 'Tis the season indeed: Thanksgiving, winter, Christmas, and the New Year.
Season: from the Latin: Sation, meaning a sowing or in Vulgar Latin, a sowing time. But what do we sow in these conditions? Since we can't plant any seeds in our frozen garden outside, then the season's sowing must be to the garden within. In the spring, we select the seeds and plants that are nurtured till summer's end. The garden is usually a success, because much of it has been made ready beforehand by "experience preparation" - readiness.
We know how to handle the tiller, harden off the transplants, and perform the many other skills needed to go from seed to fruition. But, the garden within is not seeded by us. Instead, the seeds of possibility are scattered on us like salt. We are planted to bring forth Truth as we live daily in the material world, working with the universal energies that come to us all.
We are planted to bring forth Beauty as we use our minds to decide and choose the higher and better way of dealing with material events. We are planted to bring forth Goodness, by allowing our spirit nature to guide us in our dealings with each other. To be in readiness for the seeding of our garden within, we need to ask: Have we prepared the soil for their acceptance? Have we acquired the nutrients for them to grow? Is our dedication to keeping the weeds out, strong? Do we have that water of life that will grow them to fruition?
The other night, with the wind blowing and the temperature low, one of our nine cats wanted to go out the back door. He stood patiently waiting for the crack to open so he could slip through. I pulled back the door and he took a quick two steps forward, felt the cold wind, and backed away. I shut the door thinking, "smart cat". A few minutes later he was at the door again, so being the obliging type, I opened it again. This time he was ready - steeled against the elements and determined to brave whatever there was.
Without hesitation, he slipped into the cold night air. Sometimes we just have to know what we are facing to make those forward steps. We Can Grow!
Daylight savings time approaches, causing us to stutter-step into a time shift. The few lingering garden hangers on, those that have persisted through the light frosts seem to know, as we, of their denouement. The round compost areas beckon urgently now that evening will come earlier, the frost harder, and more often. Daylight hours are cut short by the time spent at Pine Hill School, and with DST, choices must be made.
Choice one: except for the onions, garlic, and perennials, everything needs to be taken out of the garden and composted. We have seen the effects of choices these past weeks, good and bad. We survey the garden as a whole, interconnected and dependent upon the quality of our decisions. Can our lives be any different? Every thing we do influences everything else as a whole.
Hog wire circles hold the first layer of compost - corn stalks, corn leaves and cobs lay on the bottom, providing criss-crossed air spaces that will drain well, provide air circulation, and a base that will not compact.
Choice two: a layer of freshly collected green material chopped and leveled with the sharp edge of a shovel - the decay will heat the pile. Past choices are creating futures based on the quality of those decisions. We recently cleaned the covered chicken run and decided to use the mix of sand/feed/manure, adding microbes to the pile.
There is a physics in creative choosing, working with mindal measures. When choices are unified, the quality of those choices becomes apparent over time. Good choices and consistency will unify in good results.
Choice three: there is plenty of dead, dry brown material to go on top of the evenly thick, evenly spread chicken run layer. (A layer from the layers, as it were.) Repeating these layers until the top of the wire is reached will provide the mass needed for an even moisture to insure the pile works properly.
Composting unifies the garden's winter status. This direction has been signalized through the year by two of the four compost enclosures that contain the previous cleanings, thinnings, and weedings from the start of this year's garden. Eventually the many layers will become admixed, broken down into a commonality. What will the eventual commonality of our personal decision layers become?
The choices we make on how to layer the compost is one thing we can do. Natural events will, in time, bring a result. Our responsibility is to actively do something - after that it is, more or less, out of our hands, the results coming from the energies in nature. Time is the criterion by which the conscious self evaluates the circumstances of life, and by which the conceiving intellect measures and evaluates the facts of temporal existence and compost.
With the compost, we know there will be positive viewable results six to eight months from now. Unfortunately, the results of personal choices and decisions are not always so apparent or speedy. We view events that appear untouchable by us because of time and distance.
For many, there is exasperation at not having some alternate/analogous area in their lives, i.e., garden, or compost pile, to re-affirm the fact that with right-method, intent, and desire, good results can be eventuated and evaluated. How fortunate we are to have an avenue to reinforce like actions that don't give tangible results. Laying layers of truth, of beauty, and of goodness can seem futile in the volatile world in which we live.
But, our choices are like seeds, and we plant them in good faith, knowing the results are dependent upon time and time is an element of evidence. A good, or bad, choice will come to fruition sooner or later. Our advantage is that we have planted real seeds and have confidence, knowing they will grow to their appointed end: radish seeds become radishes, not apples. The proof is in the radish. Keep laying layers. You Can Grow!
"STICK TO THE TRAIL"
Teaching special education at Pine Hill, a Ramah Navajo School, can put perfunctory "repetition" in more acceptable terms. There is one road to and from the school, classes start at the same time every day and the same students present the same challenges. As with any child, information must be repeated often and by various methods until it is absorbed and the next step can be taken.
Having a goal of attainment in mind or written down keeps the focus for both student and teacher. Benefits accrue for both from this practice; the students expand their knowledge and the teacher expands his expertise at imparting knowledge.
Repetition becomes progressive by using an aspiration to create a foundation for repeated success. These successes most often come after discovering suitable creative responses; those that, in a situation, are appropriate and fitting. These responses most often are developed not from an inherent talent, but from a skill that is acquired through training and practice.
A skillful consistency makes the garden better: fertilizers thoroughly mixed and distributed evenly, each plant watered according to its need, seeds and plants placed at appropriate intervals, etc. Once these foundation "building blocks" have become repetitive and second nature in our utilization, a "style" is able to emerge, with each person's style growing evident - in form, appearance, and character.
"Action-Meditation" allows our original goal of bringing Truth, Beauty, and Goodness into the world to unconsciously show up in our work and be seen as repeated patterns that become a "style". As the garden grows, we leave behind these "trails of intent". Hopefully, there will be an inherent feeling of appreciation and satisfaction that is aroused when viewing our trails; they speak to us that we are on a path leading to expanding Truths, extended Beauty, and enhanced Goodness.
If we remain focused in these directions, our goals will be achieved ....stay on the trail! You Can Grow!
Looking out our bedroom window, we can see only a portion of the coyote fence we put up on the west side of the garden - meant to help ease the strong spring west winds that start about ten in the morning and blow until sunset. Originally, coyote fencing was just that: sticks and pieces of broken juniper put together to form a corral for the night protection of sheep by Navajo and Mexican sheepherders.
Usually old juniper fence posts are used; those that have rotted off at ground level, once being eight feet, now reduced to six or less.
Today it is also used for other purposes. One friend uses it to hide her propane tank down the hill - both from her view, and any neighbors across the field that may see the robin's egg blue color sitting amidst the sandstone hues. Another friend enclosed her small back yard, providing a certain containment and definition for a grassy area existing amid sandstone spires and multicolored cliffs.
Adverse conditions promote symbiotic relationships - most of the trees around us grow together, intertwined. The Pinon pine and the Juniper mingle, providing some component necessary to weather this environment. Hence, the juniper never grows really straight; it weaves and works its way around the Pinon. Most juniper (the wood that will last the longest) fence posts have at least two, if not three, bends, curves, and twists to them.
The trick in using them for coyote fencing is to be able to adapt these curves to the posts on either side, creating a fence of continuity - with not too many wide gaps. We have had to turn a post upside down to make it fit!
A "partial perspective" is in many ways like building a coyote fence. Each next part must "fit"- as well as possible -to the bends and curves.
With the first leaf-erupting plants (radishes, lettuce, spinach, onions, beets, and carrots) we have had a partial perspective of this year's garden. Whereas the perspective of the coyote fence from the bedroom window was rendered partial by trees, the view of the garden's final fruition is obscured by time. Each requires a step-by-step process to achieve the goal.
No year in the growing season is ever the same, and the gardener must twist and turn to each new situation: the heat, the wind, the lack of rain, late or early frosts, and all the other events that appear during a growing season. With the coyote fence, the adjustments are made visually.
With a garden, adjustments are made with, and by - experience, knowledge, and information. Over the years of growing, we have accumulated many facts - things we know work. We have also read about more things than we have been able to put into practice, and we hold these as knowledge or ideas to be used when the need arises. We constantly run into information (in magazines, on television gardening shows, pamphlets, internet sites, etc.) that provides the link, or relationship, between all these facts that we have accumulated.
Just as we have gathered the posts for the garden fence, we have provided the soil with nutrients, tilled it, and put on a layer of mulch. Some seeds have been planted, and some have germinated, and just as we adapted to the twists and turns of the posts for the fence, we will twist and turn ourselves to be able to grow a garden that will also "fit". The season is ahead - you can grow!
The sum total of human knowledge now doubles every 18 months. It is impossible to read, view, or discuss all that is known or will be known. With such a vast amount of information available there exists the real possibility of a bondage of abstraction and slavery of mathematics.
Everything is in some way possible, the situation knowable, if only we had enough data. Obviously we never have enough, leaving us with an unsatisfactory nagging. By giving identity to the words we use in our growing (in the garden) and in our growth (within ourselves) we are more able to direct and achieve purposive planning. Reaching back, we are able to ground ourselves with the threads of knowledge and passed-down-first-hand-experience.
These threads weave the warp and woof picture of our pre-history ancestor's close observation of the plants whose roots, leaves, stems and fruits would sustain them. Threads help maintain direction and expectation, in your garden and in your self.
"A man sooner or later discovers that he is the master-gardener of his soul, the director of his life."
Avant-Gardening is a creative process, a technique for growing personal creativity using plants as a medium to connect the garden outside to your inner-garden vision. It is a method of combining art, which is abstract, with craft, when working with a physical medium. It is a door, a path, a tool - allowing you to enhance your creative skills using plants.
It is learning how to establish a connection, joining inner visions, to physical and mental environments. The core of creativity is alchemy - the root of creative thinking - the basis for Avant-Gardening. ALCHEMY: from middle Latin: ALCHYMIA - transformation; to change in shape.
Personal creativity is a connection with the creative elements (air, water, soil) of the universe. You will have many creative situations that will be an opportunity to shift a paradigm - to step beyond yourself and your "limitations".
You can grow!
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Created by Frank and Vicky Giannangelo, copyright (c) 2001-2013
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